DNA Research Reveals Lifespan Link

January 17, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Glasgow have determined in a study of the DNA of a captive population of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), that just one specific piece of genetic material in a bird’s cells can reveal how long it is likely to live. Called telomeres, these portions of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) which mark the ends of chromosomes are found in almost all higher animals and plants. Telomeres help to protect the ends of chromosomes as they divide, preventing them from fusing with one another, or unraveling. After time, telomere ends become shorter and no longer protect chromosomes, resulting in cell damage and deterioration.

It has long been suspected that telomeres decline and the ageing process are closely linked, but this has not been proven in humans, and studies thus far have relied on limited monitoring during a lifespan. This recent study started measuring telomere length when the zebra finches were twenty-five days old and continued periodically over the course of the birds’ lives. The results, which were published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed a close association between telomere length and longevity. Although the results in this study are very convincing, ecologist Pat Monaghan of the University of Glasgow notes that this does not necessarily hold true for humans, and telomere researcher Duncan Baird of Cardiff University agrees.

Zebra finches were chosen for the study as they breed well in captivity and have an average lifespan of nine years, allowing researchers to draw conclusions in a relatively short space of time when compared to humans, while at the same time not being as short-lived as mice. A total of ninety-nine finches were used in the study and it was noted that the association between lifespan and telomere length was strongest at twenty-five days of age. This is a time in the bird’s life when it is almost fully grown, but still sexually immature and reliant of its parents for sustenance. This age would be roughly equivalent to a prepubescent human.

More research needs to be done to determine the significance of the results, as it is known that telomere length is not exclusively genetically determined and can be shortened by stressful events. Baird also noted that the data doesn’t reveal whether telomeres are driving the ageing process. Moreover, the results were for the entire population of birds being monitored, individual results may present a different picture.

Razorbill Breaks Records

July 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

It’s been an incredible 41 years since the razorbill chick was born and ringed and now it seems that a British razorbill is completely dominating previous bird age records. The razorbill, known as razorbill M23170, has been crowned the oldest bird of its kind in Britain. It wasn’t a tough decision to make since the average lifespan of a razorbill is just 13 years.

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Avoid Obesity in Pet Birds

May 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

People who keep birds as pets, generally do so because they enjoy their company and entertaining antics. Yet many of these bird lovers inadvertently allow their pet birds to become overweight, even to the point of obesity, exposing them to a host of possible health problems. Pet birds are very often confined to a cage and have their wings clipped to prevent flight and possible injury, resulting in a lack of exercise. Add to this the temptation to offer tasty tidbits to your feathered friend, and it is easy to see why pet birds can have the tendency to gain excess weight.

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Senegal Parrots Make Fantastic Pets

April 2, 2008 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

If you are considering purchasing a parrot as a pet, you should consider the Senegal Parrot. They are perfect for owners who are living in flats, as they are not as noisy as most other parrots can be. Their unique personalities and entertaining characters make Senegal Parrots a great choice as family pets. Originating in West Africa, this popular >pet bird now finds itself in all corners of the earth in the homes of loving owners who adore them.

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A Bird’s Life

February 26, 2007 by  
Filed under Features

How long can birds live in the wild? Anyone who has found a dead bird may wonder about their lifespan. Scientists have as well. For decades, they have been marking birds with numbered metal bands (also known as rings). If that bird is ever recovered, years later, the mystery of a bird’s lifespan can be answered.

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