The timing of organisms' senescence is developmentally programmed but also shaped by the interaction between environmental inputs and life-history traits. In ectotherms, ageing dynamics are still poorly understood even though their body temperature, metabolism, or growth trajectory are very sensitive to environmental changes. Here, we investigated the role of life-history traits such as age, sex, body size, body condition, and tail autotomy (i.e self-amputation) in shaping telomere length in six populations of the Algerian sand lizard (Psammodromus algirus) distributed along an elevational gradient from 300 to 2500 m above the sea level. Additionally, we compiled the available information on reptiles' telomere length in a review table. Our cross-sectional study shows that older lizards have longer telomeres, which might be mostly linked to the selective disappearance of individuals with shorter telomeres or, alternatively, mediated by a higher expression of telomerase across their life. In fact, variation in telomere length across elevation was explained by age structure of lizards; thus, in contrast to our predictions, altitude had no effect on telomere length in this study system. Telomere length was unaffected by tail regeneration and was sex-independent, but positively correlated with body condition, which might be linked to high somatic investment. Hence, our results suggest that life-history traits such as age or body condition can be major drivers of telomere dynamics for this species, whereas environmental conditions apparently had scarce or no effects on lizard telomeres. Our findings emphasize the relevance of understanding species' life histories for fully disentangling the causes and consequences of differences in ageing in ectotherms.
Keywords: Ageing; Altitude; Body condition; Ectotherms; Life-history traits; Reptiles.
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