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Nest predation risk modifies nestlings' immune function depending on the level of threat

Roncalli, G., Colombo, E., Soler, M., Tieleman, B. I., Versteegh, M. A., Ruiz-Raya, F., Samblas, M. G. & Ibanez-Alamo, J. D., May-2018, In : Journal of Experimental Biology. 221, 10, 10 p., 170662.

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  • Nest predation risk modifies nestlings’ immune function depending on the level of threat

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DOI

Predation risk is thought to modify the physiology of prey mainly through the stress response. However, little is known about its potential effects on the immunity of animals, particularly in young individuals, despite the importance of overcoming wounding and pathogen aggression following a predator attack. We investigated the effect of four progressive levels of nest predation risk on several components of the immune system in common blackbird (Turdus merula) nestlings by presenting them with four different calls during 1 h: non-predator calls, predator calls, parental alarm calls and conspecific distress calls to induce a null, moderate, high and extreme level of risk, respectively. Nest predation risk induced an increase in ovotransferrin, immunoglobulin and the number of lymphocytes and eosinophils. Thus, the perception of a potential predator per se could stimulate the mobilization of a nestling's immune function and enable the organism to rapidly respond to the immune stimuli imposed by a predator attack. Interestingly, only high and extreme levels of risk caused immunological changes, suggesting that different immunological parameters are modulated according to the perceived level of threat. We also found a mediator role of parasites (i.e. Leucocytozoon) and the current health status of the individual, as only nestlings not parasitized or in good body condition were able to modify their immune system. This study highlights a previously unknown link between predation risk and immunity, emphasizing the complex relationship among different selective pressures (predation, parasitism) in developing organisms and accentuating the importance of studying predation from a physiological point of view.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170662
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume221
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - May-2018

    Keywords

  • Alarm calls, H/L ratio, IgY, Innate immunity, Nest predation risk, Parasites, NITRIC-OXIDE PRODUCTION, OFFSPRING IMMUNITY, HUMORAL IMMUNITY, ALTRICIAL BIRD, ACUTE STRESS, RESPONSES, INNATE, GROWTH, WILD, IMMUNOLOGY

ID: 95091504