Nestling telomere length does not predict longevity, but covaries with adult body size in wild barn swallows

Manuela Caprioli, Maria Romano, Andrea Romano, Diego Rubolini, Rosita Motta, Marco Folini, Nicola Saino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Telomere length and dynamics are increasingly scrutinized as ultimate determinants of performance, including age-dependent mortality and fecundity. Few studies have investigated longevity in relation to telomere length (TL) in the wild and none has analysed longevity in relation to TL soon after hatching, despite the fact that telomere shortening may mostly occur early in life. We showthat TL in nestling barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) in the wild does not predict longevity. However, TL positively covaries with body size, suggesting that individuals with large TL can afford to grow larger without paying the cost of reduced TL, and/or that benign rearing conditions ensure both large body size and low rates of telomere shortening. Overall, our study hints at a role of TL in developmental processes, but also indicates a need for further analyses to assess the expectationthatTLin young individuals predicts longevity in thewild.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20130340
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 23 2013



  • Body size
  • Longevity
  • Nestlings sex
  • Telomere length

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

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