Reproductive effort and T-lymphocyte cell-mediated immunocompetence in female pied flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca

Juan Moreno, Juan J. Sanz, Elena Arriero


The physiological mechanism underlying the cost of reproduction may consist of immunodepression caused by increased parental effort. Here, we report effects of experimental manipulation of clutch size on T-lymphocyte cell-mediated immune response in female pied flycatchers, Ficedula hypoleuca. Parents with reduced broods provisioned at lower rates than those caring for control and enlarged broods three days after hatching. Parents caring for enlarged broods provisioned nests at higher rates 13 days after chick hatching than those feeding control and reduced broods. Females with enlarged broods weighed less than females with control or reduced broods. No effect of experimental treatment on nestling mass and size was found. The response to the injection of phytohaemagglutinin in the wing-web of females decreased with increasing brood size and with increasing provisioning rate when the chicks were three days old, when controlling for the negative effect of female mass on response. The T-lymphocyte cell-mediated response decreased from the reduced to the control, and from this to the enlarged group, when controlling for female mass. This effect of experimental manipulation of clutch size was significant and consistent with a trade-off between maternal effort and immunocompetence.

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