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Do carotenoids and spleen size vary with helminth load in greylag geese?

AuthorsFiguerola, Jordi ; Torres, Jordi; Garrido, Juan; Green, Andy J. ; Negro, Juan J.
Issue Date2005
PublisherNational Research Council Canada
CitationCanadian Journal of Zoology 83: 389- 395 (2005)
AbstractIt has been suggested that carotenoid-derived coloration serves as an indicator of parasite levels and (or) the general health of birds. We investigated relationships among spleen size (sometimes considered an indicator of the cellular immune response capacity of birds), carotenoid level, helminth load, and leg and bill coloration of greylag geese, Anser anser (L., 1758), from Doñana National Park (southwest Spain). Nematode abundance was positively related to spleen size and negatively to body condition, but only in males. Coloration of bill and legs was a reliable indicator of cestode but not nematode abundance. Individuals with many cestodes had greater carotenoid stores, suggesting that helminths do not limit carotenoid absorption. Rather, it suggests either that parasitized geese were accumulating more carotenoids to control parasite-induced damage, or that carotenoid-rich diets expose geese to more intermediate hosts of cestodes. Our results support the role of integumentary carotenoid-derived coloration as an indicator of parasitism, but only for particular taxonomic groups. © 2005 NRC Canada.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1139/z05-022
issn: 0008-4301
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