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Condition-dependent sex difference in nestling House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) response to phytohaemagglutinin injection

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Adult male and female birds typically respond differently to immunological challenges, but whether this difference is present in altricial nestlings is not well-documented. Furthermore, the timing of the development of different axes of the immune system might vary in nestlings and also be affected by differences in condition and health state. We tested for sex-related differences in the immune response of nestling House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon Vieillot, 1809) to the injection of phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) and in the bacteria-killing capacity of their plasma. Based on prior work, we predicted that if there were sex-related differences in immune responsiveness, they would most likely occur when the sexes differed in some measure of condition or health state. Female nestlings had a stronger response to the injection of PHA than males in the one of three breeding seasons in which the condition of nestling females exceeded that of males, suggesting that the response to PHA injection is condition-dependent rather than sex-dependent. The sexes, however, did not differ in bactericidal activity, suggesting that different axes of the immune system may not be affected to the same degree by differences in sex or in condition.

Keywords: House Wren; PHA test; Troglodytes aedon; essai à la PHA; plasma bactericidal assay; réaction immunitaire dépendant du sexe et de l’embonpoint; sex- and condition-dependent immune response; troglodyte familier; épreuve du pouvoir bactéricide du plasma

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Biological Sciences, Behavior, Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics Section, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4120, USA. 2: Department of Biology, Towson University, Towson, MD 21252, USA.

Publication date: 2014-01-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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