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The ability to mount multiple immune responses simultaneously varies across the range of the tree swallow

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Variation in immune responses is an important part of life history variation. When correlations between multiple immune measures are reported, studies report different patterns. I tested whether the correlation between levels of immune response was consistent across a species range. The ability of tree swallows Tachycineta bicolor to simultaneously produce immune responses to both a humoral immune response and T-cell mediated local inflammation to PHA was tested at three sites that span the breeding range. Females in Tennessee maintained stronger PHA responses than did females in either New York or Alaska. In New York and Alaska, individuals that produced strong PHA responses produced low levels of antibodies to a humoral challenge of sheep red blood cells (SRBC). However, in Tennessee, individuals that showed strong local PHA inflammation also mounted strong responses to SRBC. Increasing daily daytime temperatures led to increased PHA response, but there were no differences in the effect of temperature among sites. These results indicate spatial and/or temporal variation occurs in the ability to produce multiple immune responses simultaneously; this pattern suggests important geographic (or temporal) differences in factors driving investment in immune activity. In addition, these results suggest that studies extrapolating results across populations should be careful to consider geographic variation in immune activity.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2007

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