Condition dependent immune defence in the Magpie: how important is ectoparasitism?

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2001
Authors:G. Blanco, De la Puente, J., Corroto, M., Baz, T., Colas, J.
Journal:Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
Pagination:279 - 286
Date Published:2001
Keywords:defense, ectoparasite, immune, immunocompetence, Ischnocera, Philopterus, selection, sexual, size, spleen, system

The immune system has high costs of maintenance and production and expression of immune function should be dependent on the condition of the individual. The :fitness cost that parasites impose on hosts may then be reflected in the investment that hosts make in immunity. Little is known about sources and consequences of intra- and interspecific variation in the presence and size of organs of the immune system in relation to ectoparasitism. Variation in the presence and size of the bursa of Fabricius and spleen size was measured to assess potential relationships between immune defence, nutritional condition and ectoparasites in the Magpie Pica pica. We found three species of lice (Mallophaga), two species of louse flies (Hippoboscidae), and the larvae of a tick (Ixodidae) infecting magpies. Age explained a significant proportion of variation in prevalence and number of parasite species, first-year birds being more parasitized than adults. Spleen size increased with nutritional condition, and the level of ectoparasitism negatively affected nutritional condition. Only one species of lice (Philopterus picae) was involved; the negative effect of this species on nutritional condition was more pronounced in males than females. These results are consistent with the hypotheses of condition-dependent investment in the immune system and sexual differences in susceptibility to parasite effects. Ectoparasites may thus play a role in modulating the relationship between condition and immune defence. We also found evidence for an interaction between the bursa and the spleen. Magpies with bursa had larger spleens than those where it had atrophied. This interaction did not affect ectoparasitism or nutritional condition. (C) 2001 The Linnean Society of London.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith