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Naturwissenschaften. 2009 Oct;96(10):1193-202. doi: 10.1007/s00114-009-0584-z. Epub 2009 Jul 16.

Immunity and fitness in a wild population of Eurasian kestrels Falco tinnunculus.

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Department of Functional and Evolutionary Ecology, Estación Experimental de Zonas Aridas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, C/ General Segura 1, Almería, Spain.


The immune system of vertebrates consists of several components that partly interact and complement each other. Therefore, the assessment of the overall effectiveness of immune defence requires the simultaneous measurement of different immune components. In this study, we investigated intraspecific variability of innate [i.e. natural antibodies (NAb) and complement] and acquired (i.e. leucocyte profiles) immunity and its relationship with fitness correlates (i.e. blood parasite load and reproductive success in adults and body mass and survival until fledging in nestlings) in the Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus. Immunity differed between nestlings and adults and also between adult males and females. Adult kestrels with higher levels of complement were less parasitised by Haemoproteus, and males with higher values of NAbs showed a higher reproductive success. In nestlings, the H/L ratio was negatively related to body mass. Survival until fledging was predicted by all measured immunological variables of nestlings as well as by their fathers' level of complement. This is the first time that innate immunity is linked to survival in a wild bird. Thus, intraspecific variation in different components of immunity predicts variation in fitness prospects in kestrels, which highlights the importance of measuring innate immune components together with components of the acquired immunity in studies assessing the effectiveness of the immune system in wild animals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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