Urban Birds Are At Greater Risk Of Dying Young Due To Stress

First Posted: Jun 22, 2016 07:01 AM EDT

Birds such as the Parus Major (great tit) species that are living in an urban environment are at greater risk of dying prematurely than the great tits that are living outside the cities. This is because of the induced stress that the urban birds are experiencing that result in having shorter telomeres, which heightens the risk of dying young.

The study was printed in the scientific journal The Royal Society Journal Biology Letters. It was led by researchers from Lund University in Sweden, according to Science Daily.

Pablo Salmon, a biologist from the Faculty of Science, Lund University said that although there are advantages to living in cities, these include the access to food; they seem to be outweighed by the disadvantages, such as stress--at least in terms of how quickly the cells of the great tits age.

The study involved groups of siblings of the great tits. The researchers examined them. Half of the siblings were raised in the countryside and the other half in Malmo, which is the third largest city in Sweden. The researchers measured the length of their red cell telomeres after 13 days. They were astonished after seeing the big difference in the length of telomeres of the birds.

The results showed that those great tits living in the city have shorter telomeres than those grew in the countryside. The researchers said that short telomeres mean short life expectancy.

Telomeres are like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces which are located at the end of each strand of DNA. They protect the chromosomes of humans as well as of the great tits. In case the DNA strands are damaged, the cells cannot do their job.

Pablo Salmon explained that the impact that urbanization has on wildlife must be studied much more, or they won't be able to understand the threats that birds are exposed to in urban environments, and won't be able to do anything about them. The results of the study raise questions concerning the aging of other animals affected by urbanization, and humans for that matter.


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