Wing: A suitable nonlethal tissue type for repeatable and rapid telomere length estimates in bats

Megan L. Power, Sarahjane Power, Mads F. Bertelsen, Gareth Jones, Emma C. Teeling*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Telomeres are used increasingly in ecology and evolution as biomarkers for ageing and environmental stress, and are typically measured from DNA extracted from nonlethally sampled blood. However, obtaining blood is not always possible in field conditions and only limited amounts can be taken from small mammals, such as bats, which moreover lack nucleated red blood cells and hence yield relatively low amounts of DNA. As telomere length can vary within species according to age and tissue, it is important to determine which tissues serve best as a representation of the organism as a whole. Here, we investigated whether wing tissue biopsies, a rapid and relatively noninvasive tissue collection method, could serve as a proxy for other tissues when measuring relative telomere length (rTL) in the Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus). Telomeres were measured from blood, brain, heart, kidney, liver lung, muscle and wing, and multiple wing biopsies were taken from the same individuals to determine intra-individual repeatability of rTL measured by using qPCR. Wing rTL correlated with rTL estimates from most tissues apart from blood. Blood rTL was not significantly correlated with rTL from any other tissue. Blood and muscle rTLs were significantly longer compared with other tissues, while lung displayed the shortest rTLs. Individual repeatability of rTL measures from wing tissue was high (>70%). Here we show the relationships between tissue telomere dynamics for the first time in a bat, and our results provide support for the use of wing tissue for rTL measurements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-432
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Ecology Resources
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
For assistance in tissue collection, we would like to thank N. M. Foley and C. V. Whelan. We thank C. Sacchi for providing materials for laboratory work. This project was funded by an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship awarded to M.L.P. and E.C.T.; a Royal Irish Academy-Royal Society International Exchange Cost Share Programme awarded to G.J. and E.C.T. and an Irish Research Council Laureate Award to E.C.T.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • bats
  • relative telomere length
  • Rousettus aegyptiacus
  • telomeres
  • tissues


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