Behaviour 2019
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Does Telomere Length Predict Trade-Offs between Aggression, Self-Maintenance, and Parental Care?
Sarah E Wolf1, Tiana L Sanders2, Sol E Beltran3, Kimberly A Rosvall1. 1Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, United States; 2Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, United States; 3Dominican University, River Forest, IL, United States

Behavioral variation often results from underlying differences in individual condition. Given that telomeres (i.e., noncoding DNA that protects genome integrity) shorten with exposure to stressors and correlate with longevity, relative telomere length (RTL) may integrate previous wear and tear on condition and predict how animals allocate limited resources and resolve life history trade-offs; however, this question remains largely untested. Here, I used female tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) to test the hypothesis that RTL predicts relationships between territory defense, parental care, and self-maintenance, both under normal conditions and after an immune challenge with lipopolysaccharide. We found that RTL not only correlates with territory defense, but also predicts relationships between behaviors (e.g., territory defense and parental care) and may influence whether females maintain parental care during sickness. Future work exploring whether and how telomeres directly influence behavior is a vital next step toward understanding how RTL may mediate links between expected lifespan and variation in behavioral strategies.