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Title

Antimicrobial activity of nest-lining feathers is enhanced by breeding activity in avian nests

AuthorsRuiz-Castellano, Cristina ; Ruiz-Rodríguez, Magdalena ; Tomás, Gustavo ; Soler, Juan José
KeywordsAntimicrobial activity
Eggshell bacterial load
Feather nest material
Incubation behavior
Keratinolytic bacteria
Spotless starling
Issue Date5-May-2019
PublisherOxford University Press
CitationFEMS Microbiology Ecology 95 (5):fiz052 (2019)
AbstractThe use of feathers as nest material has been proposed as a kind of self-medication strategy because antimicrobial-producing microorganisms living on feathers may defend offspring against pathogenic infections. In this case, it is expected that density of antimicrobial-producing bacteria, and their antimicrobial effects, are higher in feathers that line the nests than in eggshells. Moreover, we know that feather pigmentation and breeding activity may influence density and antimicrobial production of bacteria. To test these predictions, we analyzed bacterial densities and antimicrobial activity of bacterial colonies isolated from bird eggshells and nest-lining feathers against bacterial strains comprising potential pathogens. Samples were collected from spotless starling (Sturnus unicolor) nests, and from artificial nests to isolate the effects of breeding activity on bacterial communities. The composition of feathers lining the nests was experimentally manipulated to create groups of nests with pigmented feathers, with unpigmented feathers, with both types of feathers or without feathers. Although we did not detect an effect of experimental feather treatments, we found that bacterial colonies isolated from feathers were more active against the tested bacterial strains than those isolated from eggshells. Moreover, bacterial density on feathers, keratinolytic bacteria on eggshells and antimicrobial activity of colonies solated were higher in starling nests than in artificial nests. These results suggest that antimicrobial activity of bacteria growing on nest-lining feathers would be one of the mechanisms explaining the previously detected antimicrobial effects of this material in avian nests, and that breeding activity results in nest bacterial communities with higher antimicrobial activity.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1093/femsec/fiz052
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/183506
DOI10.1093/femsec/fiz052
ISSN0168-6496
E-ISSN1574-6941
Appears in Collections:(EEZA) Artículos
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