According to a study published in Frontiers in Zoology traffic noise may be associated with increased telomere loss in zebra finches who have left the nest. Telomeres are caps on the ends of chromosomes that protect genes from damage. A shortening of the telomeres indicates an accelerated biological aging.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany and North Dakota State University, USA, investigated the effects of traffic noise on the telomere length of zebra finches. Researchers found that zebra finches that were exposed to traffic noise after leaving the nest had shorter telomeres at the age of 1
Dr. Adriana Dorado-Correa, corresponding author of the study, said, "Our study suggests that urban noise alone, independently of many other aspects of city life, such as light pollution or chemical pollution, is associated with increased telomere loss and may contribute to aging in zebra finches Our study is a first step in identifying the causal mechanisms that may account for differences in the lifespan between birds in urban or rural settings. "
Dr. Sue Anne Zollinger, co-author of the study, added, "Cell aging as a result of stress in the city is something that may not have a visible impact, but our study shows that while birds adapt to life in noisy cities, you In the study of the effects of urbanization, it may be important to study developmental stages in birds, as the mechanisms by which these human-induced changes affect individuals can change throughout their lives. "
How Zebra finches that were exposed to noise after leaving the nest had shorter telomeres, the authors suggest that the period between 18 and 120 days after hatching is a critical period in which birds are more affected by noise. This period of time is also when zebra finches begin learning songs, which can make them more sensitive to sounds. In contrast, zebra finches in the nest may be even less sensitive to noise, and parent animals may make behavioral changes to protect offspring from the negative effects of noise pollution.
Researchers studied the effects of traffic noise exposure on a total of 263 birds by comparing telomere lengths at 21 and 120 days after hatching under three different conditions: birds that hatched with noisy parents, with the offspring themselves up to 18 days after hatching Hatching were suspended; Birds hatched to non-exposed parents but exposed to noise even from the 18th to the 120th day; and controls where neither parents nor chicks were exposed to noise.
The traffic noise used in the study consisted of road traffic records that mimicked typical urban noise patterns. Researchers collected blood samples for each offspring bird 21 and 120 days after hatching to measure telomere length and telomere loss rate.
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A. Dorado-Correa et al., Timing Is Important: Traffic noise accelerates telomere loss rates at various stages of development Frontiers in Zoology (2018). DOI: 10.1186 / s12983-018-0275-8