Telomere dynamics in the Pacific crown-of-thorns seastar (Acanthaster cf. solaris): effect of age, diet, and tissue type

Kwong, Sarah Lok Ting, Villacorta Rath, Cecilia, Pratchett, Morgan, and Uthicke, Sven (2023) Telomere dynamics in the Pacific crown-of-thorns seastar (Acanthaster cf. solaris): effect of age, diet, and tissue type. Coral Reefs. (In Press)

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Population irruptions of crown-of-thorns seastar (CoTS, Acanthaster spp.) represent a perennial threat to Indo-Pacific coral reefs. Age determination of CoTS is challenging, thereby hindering understanding and management of this nuisance species. Telomeres, which are protective DNA structure found at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes that shorten at each cell division, have been used to estimate age in wild animals. To investigate the use of telomeres in CoTS, we optimized a quantitative PCR protocol to measure relative telomere length (rTL) in CoTS for the first time. Comparing rTL among four age groups (4, 7, 16, > 24 months post-settlement), we found that adult CoTS generally exhibit shorter rTL than juveniles, which is the first evidence of age-related telomere attrition in CoTS. However, there was large within-age class variation, and no significant relationships were found between adult CoTS rTL and potential age-indicating external features. Furthermore, we found accelerated telomere attrition under sub-optimal diet, where individuals that were fed crustose coralline algae for 16 months exhibited shorter rTL than their counterparts fed on coral. A positive correlation was found between rTL of tube feet and pyloric caeca, suggesting synchronization of telomere dynamics across somatic tissues in CoTS. Overall, our results suggest that rTL could be used to classify CoTS into broad age groups, though individual variation constrains the ability to resolve specific cohorts. The present study contributes to the understanding of telomere dynamics in marine invertebrates, while laying the groundwork for future research into rTL as biomarker for age and potentially stress for CoTS.

Item ID: 79350
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: Acanthaster; Age estimation; Biomarker; Coral reef management; Marine invertebrate; Telomeres
Copyright Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Funders: AIMS@JCU
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2023 23:29
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310913 Invertebrate biology @ 25%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3101 Biochemistry and cell biology > 310102 Cell development, proliferation and death @ 75%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180501 Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems @ 50%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180503 Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in marine environments @ 50%
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