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Malaria-infected female collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis) do not pay the cost of late breeding
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal Ecology.
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal Ecology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1178-4053
2014 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 9, no 1, e85822- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Life-history theory predicts that the trade-off between parasite defense and other costly traits such as reproduction may be most evident when resources are scarce. The strength of selection that parasites inflict on their host may therefore vary across environmental conditions. Collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis) breeding on the Swedish island Oland experience a seasonal decline in their preferred food resource, which opens the possibility to test the strength of life-history trade-offs across environmental conditions. We used nested-PCR and quantitative-PCR protocols to investigate the association of Haemosporidia infection with reproductive performance of collared flycatcher females in relation to a seasonal change in the external environment. We show that despite no difference in mean onset of breeding, infected females produced relatively more of their fledglings late in the season. This pattern was also upheld when considering only the most common malaria lineage (hPHSIB1), however there was no apparent link between the reproductive output and the intensity of infection. Infected females produced heavier-than-average fledglings with higher-than-expected recruitment success late in the season. This reversal of the typical seasonal trend in reproductive output compensated them for lower fledging and recruitment rates compared to uninfected birds earlier in the season. Thus, despite different seasonal patterns of reproductive performance the overall number of recruits was the same for infected versus uninfected birds. A possible explanation for our results is that infected females breed in a different microhabitat where food availability is higher late in the season but also is the risk of infection. Thus, our results suggest that another trade-off than the one we aimed to test is more important for explaining variation in reproductive performance in this natural population: female flycatchers appear to face a trade-off between the risk of infection and reproductive success late in the season.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 9, no 1, e85822- p.
Keyword [en]
avian malaria, blood parasites, Haemoproteus, Haemosporidia, reproductive cost, reproductive success, trade-off
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-204310DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085822ISI: 000330288000027OAI: diva2:638262
Available from: 2013-07-29 Created: 2013-07-29 Last updated: 2015-11-24Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Avian malaria, life-history trade-offs and interspecific competition in Ficedula flycatchers
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Avian malaria, life-history trade-offs and interspecific competition in Ficedula flycatchers
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates the impact of avian malaria (Haemosporidia) parasites on the outcome of interspecific competition between two closely related bird species, pied (Ficedula hypoleuca) and collared (F. albicollis) flycatchers. I further investigated how variation in timing of breeding, life history strategies and immune competence genes (MHC genes) modulate the fitness effects of malaria parasites in one of the two species i.e. collared flycatchers. Collared flycatchers colonized the Baltic island Öland in the late 1950-ties and has since then been expanding their breeding range while competitively excluding pied flycatchers from the favourable habitats (deciduous forests). I investigated the underlying mechanisms behind this exclusion by combining detailed long-term breeding data with modern molecular genetic techniques identifying both the presence/absence and lineage specificity of haemosporidian blood parasites. I found that the rapid decline of pied flycatchers can be explained by the combined effects of competition over nestling sites, hybridization and haemosporidian infections. Haemosporidian infections have a negative impact on survival of pied flycatcher females but no detectable effect on collared flycatchers’ longevity or reproductive success. This may be due to the fact that collared flycatchers carry (and are potentially exposed to) a higher diversity of parasites than pied flycatchers, which in turn may select for a higher diversity of MHC genes and hence a better overall protection from the negative impact of parasites. Indeed, functional MHC diversity correlates negatively with malaria prevalence among collared flycatchers from Gotland. Moreover, I found that both, malaria infection intensity and immunoglobulin level influences how infected collared flycatchers respond to increased nestling food-demands. The latter results mean that there is variation in allocation strategies (i.e. in resource allocation between reproductive effort and immune competence) within the collared flycatcher population. Hence, this population has the ability to respond to novel selection pressures in terms of optimal allocation of resources into immune functions. In summary, my results show that local parasites may facilitate the expansion of a new colonizer. This is important in the context of global climate change that will probably increase the colonization rate of southern species and lead to novel host-parasite interactions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2013. 59 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1056
Blood parasites, competitive asymmetry, immunocompetence, interspecific competition, life-history trade-offs, MHC, parasite-driven selection
National Category
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-204349 (URN)978-91-554-8708-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-09-13, Zootisalen, Evolution Museum Building, Uppsala, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2013-08-23 Created: 2013-07-31 Last updated: 2015-11-24Bibliographically approved

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