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Physiol Behav. 2015 Mar 15;141:127-34. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.01.017. Epub 2015 Jan 16.

Physiological responses to increased brood size and ectoparasite infestation: Adult great tits favour self-maintenance.

Author information

1
Evolutionary Ecology Lab, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 6, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland. Electronic address: michele.wegmann@gmail.com.
2
Evolutionary Ecology Lab, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 6, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland.

Abstract

Different types of stressors trigger responses of different physiological systems, and these responses may contribute differentially to the maintenance of homeostasis, to trade-offs and the evolution of life-history traits. To manipulate two common stressors during reproduction, we infested half of the nests in a naturally breeding great tit population with ectoparasites and simultaneously manipulated brood size, using a 2×2 experimental design. Parents in this model species commonly compensate for ectoparasites by an increase in food provisioning. We assessed parental responses to these concurrent stressors by measuring several physiological stress parameters such as changes in metabolic rate, oxidative stress and expression of heat-shock proteins (Hsp), and explored how these stressors affect the trade-off between self-maintenance and reproduction. Neither flea infestation nor brood size manipulation affected adult metabolic rate, oxidative damage or Hsp levels. Furthermore, we found no interactive effect of the two treatments on adults. However, nestlings in infested nests had lower body mass and lower survival. Nestlings in enlarged broods were lighter and had lower survival, although parents of enlarged broods increased food provisioning rate. The findings suggest that adults favour maintenance of cellular homeostasis, and physiological equilibrium over current reproduction, and that the costs induced by both stressors, flea infestation and increased brood size, are carried by the offspring. It emphasizes the importance of self-maintenance over reproduction in life-history decisions, and more generally the need of including physiological traits for understanding the evolution of life-histories.

KEYWORDS:

Homeostasis; Metabolic rate (DEE); Oxidative stress; Reproduction; Stress response

PMID:
25600467
DOI:
10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.01.017
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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