Exercise training has morph-specific effects on telomere, body condition and growth dynamics in a color-polymorphic lizard

Publication Name

Journal of Experimental Biology


Alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs) are correlated suites of sexually selected traits that are likely to impose differential physiological costs on different individuals. While moderate activity might be beneficial, animals living in the wild often work at the margins of their resources and performance limits. Individuals using ARTs may have divergent capacities for activity. When pushed beyond their respective capacities, they may experience condition loss, oxidative stress, and molecular damage that must be repaired with limited resources. We used the Australian painted dragon lizard that exhibits color polymorphism as a model to experimentally test the effect of exercise on body condition, growth, reactive oxygen species (ROS) and telomere dynamics - a potential marker of stress and aging and a correlate of longevity. For most males, ROS levels tended to be lower with greater exercise; however, males with yellow throat patches - or bibs - had higher ROS levels than non-bibbed males. At the highest level of exercise, bibbed males exhibited telomere loss, while non-bibbed males gained telomere length; the opposite pattern was observed in the no-exercise controls. Growth was positively related to food intake but negatively correlated with telomere length at the end of the experiment. Body condition was not related to food intake but was positively correlated with increases in telomere length. These results, along with our previous work, suggest that aggressive - territory holding - bibbed males suffer physiological costs that may reduce longevity compared with non-bibbed males with superior postcopulatory traits.

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Funding Sponsor

National Science Foundation



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