DNA Ageing: Rapid epigenetic age estimation for animals

A whale shark swimming

A whale shark swimming

Techniques using DNA to accurately estimate the age of a wide range of animals is a developing area of environmental science.

The ages of animals in a population are a key aspect of the population’s dynamics. The proportion of animals that is at reproductive age is a good example of this as it determines the potential for production of offspring. Knowing the age of animals in a population allows estimation of current and future population growth rates and it improves population size estimates. However, the ability to accurately estimate the age of a wide range of animals is still limited.

The field of epigenetic age estimation is still in its infancy. This project aims to advance technical developments and foster a deeper theoretical understanding of the epigenetic changes associated with age. This will help to reduce costs, increase the efficiency of assays, and produce to more assays that work on a broader variety of target species. The development of rapid non-invasive ageing assays has the potential to greatly improve many aspects of fisheries and wildlife management.

Project lead: Dr Benjamin Mayne (Environomics FSP Postdoctoral Fellow)

Supervisor: Simon Jarman

This project is supported by The North West Shelf Flatback Turtle Conservation Program.