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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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Stephen Fry lends voice to frog conservation film

News Story 1
 Comedian and author Stephen Fry has lent his voice to a new animation that hopes to raise awareness of deadly ranavirus, which is threatening the UK’s frogs.

Research by ZSL, who created the short film, suggests that at least 20 per cent of ranavirus cases over the past three decades, could be attributed to human introductions. This includes pond owners introducing fish, frog spawn and plants from other environments.

Amphibian disease expert Dr Stephen Price said: “People can help stop the spread by avoiding moving potentially infected material such as spawn, tadpoles, pond water and plants into their own pond. Disinfecting footwear or pond nets before using them elsewhere will also help.” 

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Scotland to fund OV training

The Scottish Government has revealed it will fund training for new Official Veterinarians (OVs), covering the Essential Skills, Statutory Surveillance and TB Testing.

Funding will also be provided for the revalidation of Essential Skills, as well as TB Testing for existing OVs. This is the second round of financial support from the Scottish Government for OVs.

BVA president Simon Doherty said he is “delighted” with the announcement.

“Official Veterinarians’ work in safeguarding animal health and welfare and ensuring food safety is invaluable,” he added. “This announcement has come at a crucial time, with Brexit and an uncertain future ahead, the role of OVs will be more important than ever in enabling the UK’s trade in animal products.