No sex differences in adult telomere length across vertebrates: a meta-analysis

Florentin Remot, Victor Ronget, Hannah Froy, Benjamin Rey, Jean-Michel Gaillard, Daniel H Nussey, Jean-François Lemaître

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In many mammalian species, females live on average longer than males. In humans, women have consistently longer telomeres than men, and this has led to speculation that sex differences in telomere length (TL) could play a role in sex differences in longevity. To address the generality and drivers of patterns of sex differences in TL across vertebrates, we performed meta-analyses across 51 species. We tested two main evolutionary hypotheses proposed to explain sex differences in TL, namely the heterogametic sex disadvantage and the sexual selection hypotheses. We found no support for consistent sex differences in TL between males and females among mammal, bird, fish and reptile species. This absence of sex differences in TL across different classes of vertebrates does not support the heterogametic sex disadvantage hypothesis. Likewise, the absence of any negative effect of sexual size dimorphism on male TL suggests that sexual selection is not likely to mediate the magnitude of sex differences in TL across vertebrates. Finally, the comparative analyses we conducted did not detect any association between sex differences in TL and sex differences in longevity, which does not support the idea that sex differences in TL could explain the observed sex differences in longevity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number200548
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2020


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