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Age-Related Relationships between Innate Immunity and Plasma Carotenoids in an Obligate Avian Scavenger

AuthorsLópez-Rull, Isabel ; Hornero-Méndez, Dámaso ; Frías, Óscar; Blanco, Guillermo
Issue Date6-Nov-2015
PublisherPublic Library of Science
CitationPLoS ONE 10 (11): e0141759 (2015)
AbstractVariation in immunity is influenced by allocation trade-offs that are expected to change between age-classes as a result of the different environmental and physiological conditions that individuals encounter over their lifetime. One such trade-off occurs with carotenoids, which must be acquired with food and are involved in a variety of physiological functions. Nonetheless, relationships between immunity and carotenoids in species where these micronutrients are scarce due to diet are poorly studied. Among birds, vultures show the lowest concentrations of plasma carotenoids due to a diet based on carrion. Here, we investigated variations in the relationships between innate immunity (hemagglutination by natural antibodies and hemolysis by complement proteins), pathogen infection and plasma carotenoids in nestling and adult griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) in the wild. Nestlings showed lower hemolysis, higher total carotenoid concentration and higher pathogen infection than adults. Hemolysis was negatively related to carotenoid concentration only in nestlings. A differential carotenoid allocation to immunity due to the incomplete development of the immune system of nestlings compared with adults is suggested linked to, or regardless of, potential differences in parasite infection, which requires experimental testing. We also found that individuals with more severe pathogen infections showed lower hemagglutination than those with a lower intensity infection irrespective of their age and carotenoid level. These results are consistent with the idea that intraspecific relationships between innate immunity and carotenoids may change across ontogeny, even in species lacking carotenoid-based coloration. Thus, even low concentrations of plasma carotenoids due to a scavenger diet can be essential to the development and activation of the immune system in growing birds.
Description14 páginas, 2 figuras, 2 tablas
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0141759
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