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Nest ectoparasites increase physiological stress in breeding birds: an experiment

AuthorsMartínez de la Puente, Josué ; Merino, Santiago ; Tomás, Gustavo ; Moreno Klemming, Juan ; Morales, Judith ; Lobato, Elisa ; Martínez, Javier
Biting midge Culicoides
Parasitism .
Physiological costs
Issue DateFeb-2011
CitationNaturwissenschaften (2010) 98:99-106
AbstractParasites are undoubtedly a biotic factor that produces stress. Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are important molecules buffering cellular damage under adverse con- ditions. During the breeding season, blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus (L.) adults are affected by blood parasites, nestnestdwelling parasites and biting flies, potentially affecting their HSP-mediated responses. Here, we treated females with primaquine to reduce blood parasites and fumigated nests with permethrin to reduce nest-dwelling parasites to test whether these treatments affect HSP60 level during the breeding season. Medicated females, but not controls, had a significant reduction of the intensity of infection by Haemoproteus spp. blood parasites. However, final intensity of infection did not differ significantly between groups, and we did not find an effect of medication on change in HSP60 level. Fumigation reduced the bundance of nestdwelling parasites (mites, fleas and blowfly larvae) and engorged biting midges in nests. Females breeding in nonfumigated nests increased HSP60 levels during the season more than those breeding in fumigated nests. Furthermore,the change in HSP60 level was positively correlated with the abundance of biting midges. These results show how infections by nest ectoparasites during the breeding period can increase the level of HSPs and suggest that biting midges impose physiological costs on breeding female blue tits. Although plausible, the alternative that biting midgesprefer to feed on more stressed birds is poorly supported by previous studies.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00114-010-0746-z
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