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Data for: Telomere length predicts timing and intensity of migratory behavior in a nomadic songbird

Citation

Vernasco, Ben; Watts, Heather (2022), Data for: Telomere length predicts timing and intensity of migratory behavior in a nomadic songbird, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.pk0p2ngqj

Abstract

Our understanding of state-dependent behavior is reliant on identifying physiological indicators of condition. Telomeres are of growing interest for understanding behavior as they capture differences in biological state and residual lifespan. To understand the significance of variable telomere lengths for behavior and test two hypotheses describing the relationship between telomeres and behavior (i.e., the causation and the selective adoption hypotheses), we assessed if telomere lengths are longitudinally repeatable traits related to spring migratory behavior in captive pine siskins (Spinus pinus). Pine siskins are nomadic songbirds that exhibit highly flexible, facultative migrations, including a period of spring nomadism. Captive individuals exhibit extensive variation in spring migratory restlessness and are an excellent system for mechanistic studies of migratory behavior. Telomere lengths were found to be significantly repeatable (R = 0.51) over 4 months, and shorter pre-migratory telomeres were associated with earlier and more intense expression of spring nocturnal migratory restlessness. Telomere dynamics did not vary with migratory behavior. Our results describe the relationship between telomere length and migratory behavior and provide support for the selective adoption hypothesis. More broadly, we provide a novel perspective on the significance of variable telomere lengths for animal behavior and the timing of annual cycle events.

Methods

See Read me file.

Funding

National Science Foundation, Award: IOS-1755245