To test whether telomere length can be used in estimating the age of colonial corals, we used terminal restriction fragment (TRF) length analysis to compare the telomere lengths of the coral Acropora digitifera at three developmental stages: sperm, planula larvae, and polyps of adult colonies. We also compared the mean TRF lengths between branches at the center and periphery of tabular colonies of A. digitifera. A significant difference was observed in the mean TRF lengths in sperm, planulae, and polyps. The mean TRF length was longest in sperm and shortest in polyps from adult colonies. These results suggest that telomere length decreases during coral development and may be useful for estimating coral age. However, the mean TRF length of branches at the center of a table-form colony tended to be longer than that of peripheral branches, although this difference was not statistically significant. This suggests that both the chronological age of polyps and cell proliferation rate influence telomere length in polyps, and that estimating coral age based on telomere length is not a simple endeavor.
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Vol. 31 • No. 3