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Proc Biol Sci. 2004 Nov 22;271(1555):2387-94.

Survival costs of reproduction in the blue tit (Parus caeruleus): a role for blood parasites?

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Department of Animal Ecology, Lund University, Ecology Building, 223 62 Lund, Sweden.


One of the central tenets in life-history theory is that there is a trade-off between current and future reproduction (i.e. a cost of reproduction). The mechanism for this cost of reproduction is, however, largely unknown. One hypothesis is that the high workload during reproduction compromises resistance to parasites and that the resulting increase in parasitaemia has negative effects on the prospects of future survival. Although empirical evidence for a negative relationship between reproductive effort and parasite resistance exists, the causal relationships between reproductive effort, parasite resistance and future reproduction are still unclear. We use a path analytical approach to investigate whether a change in parasite resistance (as measured by intensities of infections by the blood parasite Haemoproteus) after manipulation of reproductive effort, translates into altered survival in female blue tits. Our results show a negative relationship between reproductive effort and parasite resistance, although evident only in first-year breeders. Moreover, we found survival costs of reproduction in first-year breeders. These costs were, however, not mediated by the blood parasite studied.

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