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Effects of common origin and common rearing environment on variance in ectoparasite load and phenotype of nestling Alpine swifts
Knowledge of the quantitative genetics of resistance to parasitism is key to appraise host evolutionary responses to parasite selection. Here, we studied effects of common origin (i.e. genetic and pre-hatching parental effects) and common rearing environment (i.e. post-hatching parental effects and other environment effects) on variance in ectoparasite load in nestling Alpine swifts (Apus melba). This colonial bird is intensely parasitized by blood sucking louse-flies that impair nestling development and survival. By cross-fostering half of the hatchlings between pairs of nests, we show strong significant effect of common rearing environment on variance (90.7% in 2002 and 90.9% in 2003) in the number of louse-flies per nestling and no significant effect of common origin on variance in the number of louse-flies per nestling. In contrast, significant effects of common origin were found for all the nestling morphological traits (i.e. body mass, wing length, tail length, fork length and sternum length) under investigation. Hence, our study suggests that genetic and pre-hatching parental effects play little role in the distribution of parasites among nestling Alpine swifts, and thus that nestlings have only limited scope for evolutionary responses against parasites. Our results highlight the need to take into consideration environmental factors, including the evolution of post-hatching parental effects such as nest sanitation, in our understanding of host-parasite relationships.
Cost of parasitism, Crataerina melbae , Cross-fostering experiment, Heritability, Hippoboscidae, Host-parasite interaction, Parasite distribution
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