Effects of chronic exposure to trace metals on telomere length and kinetics, and the implications for overall fitness and behaviour in wildlife birds

  • 1 September, 2021
  • Wageningen University, Toxicology
  • dr ir NW van den Brink

Objectives: Chemicals can affect the cellular redox-state of animals including birds. Oxidative stress may affect the kinetics of chromosomal telomere shortening. Recent results have shown that increased telomere shortening in bird chicks decreases recruitment. Exposure to trace metals, such as cadmium, that interfere with the anti-oxidant system and air pollutants that direct produce reactive oxygen species can, therefore, potentially lead to chronic oxidative stress and as a result telomere shortening in birds. This ESR will study the oxidative status of chicks of great tits (Parus major) chronically exposed to trace metals and air pollution from traffic to:
1) Elucidate potential effects of chronic chemical exposure on telomere shortening (in vitro, ex vivo, in vivo) using TBARs to assess oxidative stress, qPCR to assess telomere length in blood and feathers to quantify metal exposures;
2) Establish a study population established in which effects of chemical induced telomere shortening will be established under field conditions, at locations near motorways around Wageningen (A12, A50, A15);
3) Perform ecological follow up studies, focussed on markers of overall fitness e.g. recruitment and reproduction using established nestbox populations.


Matteo Schiavinato

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