Immunocompetence of nestling great tits in relation to rearing environment and parentage

Brinkhof, M.W.G.; Heeb, P; Kolliker, M; Richner, Heinz (1999). Immunocompetence of nestling great tits in relation to rearing environment and parentage. Proceedings of the Royal Society. Series B - biological sciences, 266(1435), pp. 2315-2322. London: Royal Society of London 10.1098/rspb.1999.0925

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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. [References: 49]

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Evolutionary Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Richner, Heinz




Royal Society of London




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Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:48

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:15

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URI: (FactScience: 3175)

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