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Poultry Science Association

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In most of the species studied, telomeres appeared to shorten more slowly in long-lived birds than shortlived birds. Interestingly, in a particularly long-lived bird, Leach's storm petrel, telomeres did not shorten with age, but lengthened (Vleck et al., 2003, Haussmann et al., 2003).

In another study examining DNA from erythrocytes, it was found that while telomere length in blood cells declined between the chick stage and the adult in two species of long-lived seabirds, telomere length in adults was not related to age. This study cautioned that rates of telomere loss were not constant with age and that there was a great deal of interindividual variation in the magnitude of telomere loss (Hall et al., 2004). It should be noted that avian erythrocytes are the product of erythroid progenitor cells capable of extended self-renewal (Beug et al., 1994) and therefore are likely to possess a significantly different telomere-length maintenance pathway than the majority of somatic cells whose telomeres typically demonstrate division-dependent shortening. It would not, therefore, be surprising to find that telo-mere shortening profiles in this renewable cell population would bear a greater resemblance to the profiles of other renewable tissues than to the telomeres of nonrenewable cell populations such as fibroblasts.

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