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Cross-generational stressors affect telomeres and survival in house sparrows

Cite this dataset

Young, Rebecca C. et al. (2022). Cross-generational stressors affect telomeres and survival in house sparrows [Dataset]. Dryad.


Parental stress often has long-term consequences for offspring.  However, the mechanisms underlying these effects and how they are shaped by conditions offspring subsequently experience are poorly understood.  Telomeres, which often shorten in response to stress and predict longevity, may contribute to, and/or reflect these cross-generational effects.  Traditionally, parental stress is expected to have negative effects on offspring telomeres, but experimental studies in captive animals suggest that these effects may depend on the subsequent conditions that offspring experience.  Yet, the degree to which parental stress influences and interacts with stress experienced by offspring to affect offspring telomeres and survival in free-living organisms is unknown.  To assess this, we experimentally manipulated the stress exposure of free-living parent and offspring house sparrows (Passer domesticus).  We found a weak, initial, negative effect of parental stress on offspring telomeres, but this effect was no longer evident at the end of post-natal development.  Instead, the effects of parental stress depended on the natural sources of stress that offspring experienced during post-natal development whereby some outcomes were improved under more stressful rearing conditions.  Thus, the effects of parental stress on offspring telomeres and survival are context-dependent and may involve compensatory mechanisms of potential benefit under some circumstances.

Usage notes

dataset provided as .csv and .xlsx created in Excel and was analyzed in R


Nick Simons Foundation, Award: IOS-1656212