Utility of telomere length measurements for age determination of humpback whales

  • Morten Tange Olsen Evolutionary Genetics Group, Department of Genetics, Microbiology, and Toxicology, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm *Present address: Section for Evolutionary Genomics, Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 5–7, Copenhagen K 1350, Denmark
  • Jooke Robbins Center for Coastal Studies, 5 Holway Avenue, Provincetown, MA 02657
  • Martine Bérubé Evolutionary Genetics Group, Department of Genetics, Microbiology, and Toxicology, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden And Marine Evolution and Conservation, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, PO Box 11103, 97 CC Groningen, The Netherlands
  • Mary Beth Rew 4Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies, Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, OR 97365
  • Per J Palsbøll Evolutionary Genetics Group, Department of Genetics, Microbiology, and Toxicology, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden And Marine Evolution and Conservation, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Studies, University of Groningen, PO Box 11103, 97 CC Groningen, The Netherlands
Keywords: ageing, telomere, humpback whales, North Atlantic, Megaptera novaeangliae

Abstract

This study examines the applicability of telomere length measurements by quantitative PCR as a tool for minimally invasive age determination of free-ranging cetaceans. We analysed telomere length in skin samples from 28 North Atlantic humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), ranging from 0 to 26 years of age. The results suggested a significant correlation between telomere length and age in humpback whales. However, telomere length was highly variable among individuals of similar age, suggesting that telomere length measured by quantitative PCR is an imprecise determinant of age in humpback whales. The observed variation in individual telomere length was found to be a function of both experimental and biological variability, with the latter perhaps reflecting patterns of inheritance, resource allocation trade-offs, and stochasticity of the marine environment.

Author Biography

Morten Tange Olsen, Evolutionary Genetics Group, Department of Genetics, Microbiology, and Toxicology, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm *Present address: Section for Evolutionary Genomics, Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 5–7, Copenhagen K 1350, Denmark
Scientific Secretary
Published
2014-12-05
How to Cite
OlsenM. T., RobbinsJ., BérubéM., RewM. B., & PalsbøllP. J. (2014). Utility of telomere length measurements for age determination of humpback whales. NAMMCO Scientific Publications, 10. https://doi.org/10.7557/3.3194