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Early stress in starlings found to lead to faster aging

Posted December 3, 2014

A combined team of researchers from Newcastle University and the University of Glasgow, both in the U.K. has found that stress in young starlings can lead to shortened telomeres—which prior research has suggested leads to faster aging and development and behavioral problems later on in life. In their paper published inProceedings of the Royal Society B, the team describes how they stressed young starlings and then tested them to see what it might have done to them.

A starling

A starling (Sturnus vulgaris) Photo by Theo Webb

Prior research has found that telomeres—the caps on the ends of chromosomes—become shorter each time cells divide. Scientists have also found that it’s this shortening that causes aging in humans and other animals—and aging related illnesses such as diabetes, artery disease, some cancers and premature death. Other research has shown that shortening of telomeres doesn’t happen at the same pace in every species or even in the same species, which explains why some animals seem to age faster or slower than others of their kind. In this new effort, the researchers found that the process can be speeded up by stress—at least in young starlings.

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