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    Animals use a variety of strategies to avoid acute dehydration and death. Yet, how chronic exposure to sub-lethal dehydration may entail physiological and fitness costs remains elusive. In this study, we experimentally tested if water restriction causes increased oxidative stress (OS) and telomere length (TL) shortening, two well-described mediators of environment-fitness relationships. We exposed 100 yearling female and male common lizards (Zootoca vivipara) either to a 51-day period of water restriction or to water ad libitum, followed by 45 days in common garden outdoor conditions. We measured the kinetic changes in OS and TL and found that water-restricted males had enhanced antioxidant defences and decreased oxidative damage at day 36, whereas females did not immediately respond. A month and a half after water restriction, both sexes experienced a drop in antioxidant capacity but only males exhibited significant TL shortening. In the following 3 years, we found that lizards with longer initial TL and those who maintained stronger antioxidant defences experienced higher longevity, irrespective of sex and water restriction. Together, these results unravelled sex-specific responses to water restriction, with potential applications in better understanding the physiological costs of increasing summer droughts as a result of global climate change.


    Andréaz Dupoué, Frédéric Angelier, Cécile Ribout, Sandrine Meylan, David Rozen-Rechels, Beatriz Decencière, Simon Agostini, Jean-François Le Galliard. Chronic water restriction triggers sex-specific oxidative stress and telomere shortening in lizards. Biology letters. 2020 Feb;16(2):20190889

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    PMID: 32097601

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