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Age estimation in a long-lived seabird (Ardenna tenuirostris) using DNA methylation-based biomarkers


De Paoli-Iseppi, R and Deagle, BE and Polanowski, AM and McMahon, CR and Dickinson, JL and Hindell, MA and Jarman, SN, Age estimation in a long-lived seabird (Ardenna tenuirostris) using DNA methylation-based biomarkers, Molecular Ecology Resources, 19, (2) pp. 411-425. ISSN 1755-098X (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

DOI: doi:10.1111/1755-0998.12981


Age structure is a fundamental aspect of animal population biology. Age is strongly related to individual physiological condition, reproductive potential and mortality rate. Currently, there are no robust molecular methods for age estimation in birds. Instead, individuals must be ringed as chicks to establish known-age populations, which is a labour intensive and expensive process. The estimation of chronological age using DNA methylation is emerging as a robust approach in mammals including humans, mice and some non-model species. Here we quantified DNA methylation in whole blood samples from a total of 71 known-age Short-tailed shearwaters (Ardenna tenuirostris) using digital restriction enzyme analysis of methylation (DREAM). The DREAM method measures DNA methylation levels at thousands of CpG dinucleotides throughout the genome. We identified seven CpG sites with DNA methylation levels that correlated with age. A model based on these relationships estimated age with a mean difference of 2.8 years to known age, based on validation estimates from models created by repeated sampling of training and validation data subsets. Longitudinal observation of individuals re-sampled over 1 or 2 years generally showed an increase in estimated age (6/7 cases). For the first time, we have shown that epigenetic changes with age can be detected in a wild bird. This approach should be of broad interest to researchers studying age biomarkers in non-model species and will allow identification of markers that can be assessed using targeted techniques for accurate age estimation in large population studies.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:epigenetics, ageing, wildlife populations, DREAM, DNA methylation, age, birds
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Climate change impacts and adaptation
Research Field:Climate change impacts and adaptation not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:De Paoli-Iseppi, R (Mr Ricardo De Paoli-Iseppi)
UTAS Author:Deagle, BE (Dr Bruce Deagle)
UTAS Author:Polanowski, AM (Ms Andrea Polanowski)
UTAS Author:McMahon, CR (Dr Clive McMahon)
UTAS Author:Dickinson, JL (Professor Joanne Dickinson)
UTAS Author:Hindell, MA (Professor Mark Hindell)
ID Code:130067
Year Published:2018
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2019-01-09
Last Modified:2019-03-25

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