Article: article from journal or magazin.
Immunocompetence of nestling great tits in relation to rearing environment and parentage
Proceedings of the Royal Society, London series B
Theoretical models of host?parasite coevolution assume a partially genetic basis to the variability in susceptibility to parasites among hosts, for instance as a result of genetic variation in immune function. However, few empirical data exist for free-living vertebrate hosts to support this presumption. In a cross-fostering experiment with nestling great tits, by comparing nestlings of the same origin we investigated (i) the variance in host resistance against an ectoparasite due to a common genetic origin, (ii) the effect of ectoparasite infestation on cell- mediated immunity and (iii) the variance in cell-mediated immunity due to a common genetic origin. Ectoparasitic hen fleas can impair the growth of nestling great tits and nestling growth was therefore taken as a measure of host susceptibility. A common origin did not account for a significant part of the variation in host susceptibility to fleas. There was no significant overall effect of fleas on nestling growth or cell-mediated immunity, as assessed by a cutaneous hypersensitivity response. A common rearing environment explained a significant part of the variation in cell-mediated immunity among nestlings, mainly through its effect on nestling body mass. The variation in cell-mediated immunity was also related to a common origin. However, the origin-related variation in body mass did not account for the origin-related differences in cell-mediated immunity. The results of the present study thus suggest heritable variation in cell-mediated immunity among nestling great tits.
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