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Innate immunity is not related to the sex of adult Tree Swallows during the nestling period

January 1, 2011

Evolutionary theory predicts that exposure to more diverse pathogens will result in the evolution of a more robust immune response. We predicted that during the breeding season the innate immune function of female Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) should be more effective than that of males because (1) the transmission of sexually transmitted microbes during copulation puts females at greater risk because ejaculates move from males to females, (2) females copulate with multiple males, exposing them to the potentially pathogenic microbes in semen, and (3) females spend more time in the nest than do males so may be more exposed to nest microbes and ectoparasites that can be vectors of bacterial and viral pathogens. In addition, elevated testosterone in males may suppress immune function. We tested our prediction during the 2009 breeding season with microbicidal assays in vitro to assess the ability of the innate immune system to kill Escherichia coli. The sexes did not differ in the ability of their whole blood to kill E. coli. We also found no significant relationships between the ability of whole blood to kill E. coli and the reproductive performance or the physical condition of males or females. These results indicate that during the nestling period there are no sexual differences in this component of the innate immune system. In addition, they suggest that there is little association between this component of innate immunity and the reproductive performance and physical condition during the nestling period of adult Tree Swallows.

Publication Year 2011
Title Innate immunity is not related to the sex of adult Tree Swallows during the nestling period
DOI 10.1525/cond.2011.100220
Authors Bradley J. Houdek, Michael P. Lombardo, Patrick A. Thorpe, D. Caldwell Hahn
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Condor
Index ID 70006310
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center