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Contrasting associations between nestling telomere length and pre and postnatal helpers’ presence in a cooperatively breeding bird

Abstract : Studies on cooperative breeders have addressed the efects of non-breeding ‘helpers’ on reproduction and parental care,but the consequences for ofspring physiology and long-term survival are less understood. Helpers are expected to beneit AQ1 ofspring, but their presence can also lead to decreased pre- or post-natal parental reproductive efort. To examine whether prenatal and postnatal helpers inluence ofspring condition, we conducted a whole-clutch cross-fostering experiment in sociable weavers (Philetairus socius) that altered the nestlings’ social environment (presence/absence of helpers). We tested whether relative telomere length (rTL), an indicator of somatic maintenance, was inluenced by prenatal and/or postnatal presence of helpers 9 and 17 days after hatching, and whether rTL predicted long-term survival. Nine days after hatching,we found an overall positive efect of postnatal helpers on rTL: for nestlings with prenatal helpers, a reduction in the number of helpers post-hatch was associated with shorter telomeres, while nestlings swapped from nests without helpers to nests with helpers had a larger rTL. However, when prenatal helpers were present, an increased number of helpers after hatching led to shorter telomeres. Nine-day old chicks with longer rTL tended to be more likely to survive over the 5 years following hatching. However, close to ledging, there was no detectable efect of the experiment on rTL and no link between rTL and survival. This experimental study of a wild cooperative breeder, therefore, presents partial support for the importance of the presence of helpers for ofspring rTL and the link between early-life telomere length and long-term survival.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03204550
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Submitted on : Wednesday, April 21, 2021 - 3:55:59 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, August 30, 2022 - 4:40:06 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, July 22, 2021 - 6:56:09 PM

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Martin Quque, Matthieu Paquet, Sandrine Zahn, Franck Théron, Bruno Faivre, et al.. Contrasting associations between nestling telomere length and pre and postnatal helpers’ presence in a cooperatively breeding bird. Oecologia, Springer Verlag, 2021, ⟨10.1007/s00442-021-04917-8⟩. ⟨hal-03204550⟩

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