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DNA study sheds light on lifespan mystery
great danes
Until now, biologists have been unable to explain why the larger animals in a species tend to have shorter lives.
Scientists find out why bigger may not be better

A new discovery could explain why larger individuals in a species tend to have shorter life spans.

Until now, biologists have been unable to explain why the larger animals in a species tend to have shorter lives - great Danes, for example, generally have shorter lives than Jack Russells.

A recent study of humans also found that taller people are more prone to diseases such as cancer.

But scientists from Glasgow and Norway now believe the answer is in the way DNA linked to ageing and lifespan changes with body size.

Telomeres are special DNA structures that all animals have at the end of their chromosomes. They are described as 'the protective plastic caps at the end of shoelaces'.

When the research team studied a population of wild house sparrows on the island on Leka in Norway, they found that the skeletally bigger house sparrows had shorter telomeres.

Telomeres erode over time and this shortening has been associated with ageing and disease. Individuals with naturally longer telomeres appear to have an advantage when it comes to health and ageing.

"Growing a bigger body means that cells have to divide more," explained Professor Pat Monaghan, regius chair of zoology at the University of Glasgow. "As a result, telomeres become eroded faster and cells and tissues function less well as a result.

"The reason why the bigger individuals have shorter telomeres might also be related to increased DNA damage due to growing faster."

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Big Butterfly Count returns

News Story 1
 The world's biggest survey of butterflies is back for 2020!

Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count launches on Friday, 17 July and will run until Sunday 9 August. Members of the public can get involved by downloading the Big Butterfly Count App or recording results on a downloadable sheet available from bigbutterflycount.org/.

'It's a fantastic activity for people from three to 103 years and we'd encourage everyone to take 15 minutes in an appropriate outdoor space during sunny conditions to simply appreciate the nature around them and do their bit to help us understand butterfly populations,' said a Butterfly Conservation spokesperson. 

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New appointment at Dechra

Dechra Veterinary Products Ltd (Dechra) has announced a key appointment to support veterinary professionals across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Karen Hockley has been appointed as a telesales account manager and will provide the latest products, news and developments from Dechra. She joins the company from a large mixed practice in Northern Ireland where she was the branch manager.

Before that, Karen had worked for a multinational veterinary pharmaceutical company as a key account manager for Northern Ireland. She can be contacted at karen.hockley@dechra.com or 087 219 54 30.