University Of Tasmania

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Telomeres as age markers in vertebrate molecular ecology

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 11:12 authored by Dunshea, GJ, Duffield, D, Gales, N, Mark HindellMark Hindell, Wells, RS, Jarman, SN
Chronological age is a fundamental and yet elusive variable in studies of many wild animals. Telomeres are nucleoprotein structures on the ends of chromosomes that change size throughout the life of many animals and because of this property have been advocated as a means to estimate age. In this review, we assess the existing and potential application of using telomeres for age estimation. We argue that there are conceptual and statistical inconsistencies in previous studies and that the basis for telomere change over time is not well understood and affected by several intrinsic and extrinsic process unrelated to chronological time. Furthermore, these processes are likely to vary spatially and temporally for animal populations. We conclude that the current data suggest telomeres should not be used for age estimation. If telomere-based age estimation is to be used, more work in understanding variability in key processes affecting telomere dynamics and rigorous substantiation via blind testing is needed.


Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment


Publication title

Molecular Ecology Resources








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

The definitive published version is available online at:

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems

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