Inbreeding effects on telomeres in hatchling sand lizards (Lacerta agilis): An optimal family affair?

Publication Name

Molecular Ecology


Telomeres are nucleotide-protein caps, predominantly at the ends of Metazoan linear chromosomes, showing complex dynamics with regard to their lengthening and shortening through life. Their complexity has entertained the idea that net telomere length and attrition could be valuable biomarkers of phenotypic and genetic quality of their bearer. Intuitively, those individuals could be more heterozygous and, hence, less inbred. However, some inbred taxa have longer, not shorter, telomeres. To understand the role of inbreeding in this complex scenario we need large samples across a range of genotypes with known maternity and paternity in telomere-screened organisms under natural conditions. We assessed the effects of parental and hatchling inbreeding on telomere length in >1300 offspring from >500 sires and dams in a population of sand lizards (Lacerta agilis). Maternal and paternal ID and their interactions predict hatchling telomere length at substantial effect sizes (R2 >.50). Deviation from mean maternal heterozygosity statistically predicts shorter offspring telomeres but this only when sibship is controlled for by paternal ID, and then is still limited (R2 =.06). Raw maternal heterozygosity scores, ignoring absolute deviation from the mean, explained 0.07% of the variance in hatchling telomere length. In conclusion, inbreeding is not a driver of telomere dynamics in the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) study system.

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Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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