Stress-related changes in leukocyte profiles and telomere shortening in the shortest-lived tetrapod, Furcifer labordi
Eckhardt, Falk ; Pauliny, Angela ; Rollings, Nicky ; Mutschmann, Frank ; Olsson, Mats ; Kraus, Cornelia ; Kappeler, Peter M
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/17689
Abstract Background Life history theory predicts that during the lifespan of an organism, resources are allocated to either growth, somatic maintenance or reproduction. Resource allocation trade-offs determine the evolution and ecology of different life history strategies and define an organisms’ position along a fast–slow continuum in interspecific comparisons. Labord’s chameleon (Furcifer labordi) from the seasonal dry forests of Madagascar is the tetrapod species with the shortest reported lifespan (4–9 months). Previous investigations revealed that their lifespan is to some degree dependent on environmental factors, such as the amount of rainfall and the length of the vegetation period. However, the intrinsic mechanisms shaping such a fast life history remain unknown. Environmental stressors are known to increase the secretion of glucocorticoids in other vertebrates, which, in turn, can shorten telomeres via oxidative stress. To investigate to what extent age-related changes in these molecular and cellular mechanisms contribute to the relatively short lifetime of F. labordi, we assessed the effects of stressors indirectly via leukocyte profiles (H/L ratio) and quantified relative telomere length from blood samples in a wild population in Kirindy Forest. We compared our findings with the sympatric, but longer-lived sister species F. cf. nicosiai, which exhibit the same annual timing of reproductive events, and with wild-caught F. labordi that were singly housed under ambient conditions. Results We found that H/L ratios were consistently higher in wild F. labordi compared to F. cf. nicosiai. Moreover, F. labordi already exhibited relatively short telomeres during the mating season when they were 3–4 months old, and telomeres further shortened during their post-reproductive lives. At the beginning of their active season, telomere length was relatively longer in F. cf. nicosiai, but undergoing rapid shortening towards the southern winter, when both species gradually die off. Captive F. labordi showed comparatively longer lifespans and lower H/L ratios than their wild counterparts. Conclusion We suggest that environmental stress and the corresponding accelerated telomere attrition have profound effects on the lifespan of F. labordi in the wild, and identify physiological mechanisms potentially driving their relatively early senescence and mortality.