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Migratory birds’ chromosomes reveal stress

Cara J

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Researchers recently discovered some differences between the DNA of migratory and resident birds that can provide insight into the stresses that migratory birds face from their journey. As part of a study published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, lead author Carolyn Bauer and her colleagues examined telomeres in songbirds. Telomeres are the protective cap at the ends of the chromosome that stop the cells from aging and dying. When a cell replicates its DNA, a little bit of the telomere is shortened due to oxidative stress — the increased production of free radicals such as peroxides or other chemicals. This shortening of telomeres cannot be repaired, says Bauer, a postdoctoral scholar at North Dakota State University. Bauer, who has had a longtime interest in telomeres and stress physiology, wanted to determine the differences in telomeres of migratory and resident dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) in western Virginia. “Birds are actually pretty easy to study telomeres in,” she said, adding that you can extract the DNA right from their red blood cells, which is different than that of humans. Researchers also refer to telomeres to determine the age of an organism. Bauer and her team went to the University of Virginia’s Mountain [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/migratory-birds-chromosomes-reveal-stress/

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