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Prevalence of potentially pathogenic culturable bacteria on eggshells and in cloacae of female Pied Flycatchers in a temperate habitat in central Spain

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Bacteria grow on avian eggshells and thus can potentially cause diseases in developing embryos. Little is known about culturable bacteria colonizing avian eggshells in free-living birds, with most studies restricted to poultry. Our objective was to examine the culturable bacterial array growing on eggshells during incubation that could negatively affect hatching success of Pied Flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) in a temperate montane habitat in central Spain. Cloacal culturable bacteria of females were also analyzed because bacteria can be vertically transmitted from females to eggs. We used fecal samples as surrogates of cloacal samples due to the small size of sampled birds. We found that eggshells and female cloacae of Pied Flycatchers harbored 24 and 40 bacterial families and species, respectively, but only a few in each clutch and each cloaca. Rod-shaped gram-negative bacteria and bacteria in the family Pseudomonadaceae were the most common bacteria on eggshells during early and late incubation and in female cloacae. Although based on small sample sizes, we found that females with rod-shaped gram-negative bacteria in their cloacae laid eggs that also had these bacteria, providing possible evidence for vertical transmission. We found no evidence for vertical transmission of Pseudomonadaceae, suggesting a possible environmental source for these bacteria. The prevalence of bacterial morphological types and major taxonomical categories on eggshells did not vary from early to late stages of incubation, providing support for the hypothesis that incubation may have bacteriostatic effects on bacterial proliferation on eggshells. Despite being primary egg invaders in poultry, we detected no effects of culturable Pseudomonadaceae or Pseudomonas luteola on hatching success. Our study represents the first to examine the culturable bacteria growing on the eggshells of a wild bird in a temperate habitat and additional studies based on culture-independent techniques are required to confirm our results.
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Keywords: Ficedula hypoleuca; Pseudomonadaceae; cloacae; culturable bacteria; incubation; vertical transmission

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centre d' Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), UMR 5175 Route de Mende, F-34293 Montepellier Cedex 5, France 2: Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. José Abascal 2, 28006, Madrid, Spain

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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