, Volume 191, Issue 4, pp 767–776 | Cite as

Temperature and telomeres: thermal treatment influences telomere dynamics through a complex interplay of cellular processes in a cold-climate skink

  • L. J. FitzpatrickEmail author
  • M. Olsson
  • L. M. Parsley
  • A. Pauliny
  • T. L. Pinfold
  • T. Pirtle
  • G. M. While
  • E. Wapstra
Physiological ecology – original research


Telomere dynamics vary fundamentally between endothermic populations and species as a result of differences in life history, yet we know little about these patterns in ectotherms. In ectotherms, the relationships between climate, metabolism and life history suggest that telomere attrition should be higher at relatively high environmental temperatures compared to relatively low environmental temperatures, but these effects may vary between populations due to local adaptation. To address this hypothesis, we sampled reactive oxygen species (ROS) and telomere length of lizards from warm lowland and cool highland populations of a climatically widespread lizard species that we exposed to hot or cold basking treatments. The hot treatment increased relative telomere length compared to the cold treatment independent of climatic origin or ROS levels. Lizards from the cool highland region had lower ROS levels than those from the warm lowland region. Within the highland lizards, ROS increased more in the cold basking treatment than the hot basking treatment. These results are in the opposite direction to those predicted, suggesting that the relationships between temperature, metabolism, ROS and telomere dynamics are not straightforward. Future work incorporating detailed understanding of the thermal reaction norms of these and other linked traits is needed to fully understand these processes.


Climate Ectotherm Reactive oxygen species Reptile Telomere 


Author contribution statement

LJF, AP, LMP, TLP, GMW, EW and MO conceived the ideas and designed the methodology. LJF, LMP, TP, AP and EW collected the data. LJF, LMP, AP, GMW and EW analysed the data. LJF, GMW and EW led the writing of the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.


EW, MO and GW were supported by ARC Grants and Fellowships. LF was supported by the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment (Grant W0024143)—Equity Trustees Charitable Foundation and the Ecological Society of Australia and by the Australian Government’s Australia Awards: Endeavour Research Fellowship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Data accessibility

Analyses reported in this article can be reproduced using the datasets provided as part of the electronic supplementary material.


All guidelines and procedures for the use of animals were approved by the University of Tasmania Animal Ethics Committee (A0015987). Field collections were carried out under permit number FA 16236 issued by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment, Tasmania.

Supplementary material

442_2019_4530_MOESM1_ESM.csv (7 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (CSV 6 kb)
442_2019_4530_MOESM2_ESM.docx (23 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 23 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural SciencesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  4. 4.School of MedicineUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia

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