No evidence for parental age effects on offspring leukocyte telomere length in free-living Soay sheep

H. Froy*, E. J. Bird, R. V. Wilbourn, J. Fairlie, S. L. Underwood, E. Salvo-Chirnside, J. G. Pilkington, C. Bérénos, J. M. Pemberton, D. H. Nussey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In humans, the effect of paternal age at conception (PAC) on offspring leukocyte telomere length (LTL) is well established, with older fathers thought to pass on longer telomeres to their offspring in their sperm. Few studies have looked for PAC effects in other species, but it has been hypothesised that the effect will be exacerbated in polygamous species with higher levels of sperm competition and production. We test for maternal (MAC) and paternal age at conception effects on offspring LTL in Soay sheep, a primitive breed experiencing strong sperm competition. We use qPCR to measure relative telomere length in 389 blood samples (n = 318 individuals) collected from an unmanaged population of sheep on St Kilda, where individual age and parentage are known. We find no evidence that either MAC or PAC are associated with LTL in offspring across the age range, or when considering only young lambs (n = 164). This is the first study to test for parental age effects on offspring LTL in a wild mammal population, and the results contrast with the findings of numerous human studies that find a PAC effect, as well as predictions of a stronger PAC effect in polygamous species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9991
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
Issue number1
Early online date30 Aug 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

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