Telomere dynamics rather than age predict life expectancy in the wild

Pierre Bize, Francois Criscuolo, Neil B Metcalfe, Lubna Nasir, Pat Monaghan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

224 Citations (Scopus)


Despite accumulating evidence from in vitro studies that cellular senescence is linked to telomere dynamics, how this relates to whole-organism senescence and longevity is poorly understood and controversial. Using data on telomere length in red blood cells and long-term survival from wild Alpine swifts of a range of ages, we report that the telomere length and the rate of telomere loss are predictive of life expectancy, and that slow erosion of relatively long telomeres is associated with the highest survival probabilities. Importantly, because telomere dynamics, rather than chronological age, predict life expectancy, our study provides good evidence for a mechanistic link between telomere erosion and reduced organism longevity under natural conditions, chronological age itself possibly not becoming a significant predictor until very old ages beyond those in our sample.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1679-1683
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1662
Early online date25 Feb 2009
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2009


  • ageing
  • alpine swift
  • lifespan
  • longitudinal data
  • natural populations
  • telomere dynamics


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