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Contrasting adaptive immune defenses and blood parasite prevalence in closely related Passer sparrows

  • KA Lee
  • LB Martin
  • Dennis Hasselquist
  • RE Ricklefs
  • L Wikelski
Publishing year: 2006
Language: English
Pages: 383-392
Publication/Series: Oecologia
Volume: 150
Issue: 3
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

Immune system components differ in their functions and costs, and immune defense profiles are likely to vary among species with differing ecologies. We compared adaptive immune defenses in two closely related species that have contrasting inflammatory immune responses, the widespread and abundant house sparrow (Passer domesticus) and the less abundant tree sparrow (Passer montanus). We found that the house sparrow, which we have previously shown mounts weaker inflammatory responses, exhibits stronger adaptive immune defenses, including antibody responses, natural antibody titers, and specific T-cell memory, than the tree sparrow. Conversely, tree sparrows, which mount strong inflammatory responses, also mount stronger nonspecific inflammatory T-cell responses but weaker specific adaptive responses. Prevalence of avian malaria parasite infections, which are controlled by adaptive immune defenses, was higher in the geographically restricted tree sparrow than in the ubiquitous house sparrow. Together these data describe distinct immune defense profiles between two closely related species that differ greatly in numbers and distributions. We suggest that these immunological differences could affect fitness in ways that contribute to the contrasting abundances of the two species in North American and Western Europe.


  • Biological Sciences


  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 1432-1939
Dennis Hasselquist
E-mail: dennis [dot] hasselquist [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 08



Research group


Doctoral students and postdocs

Research fellows


PhD Students, main supervisor

PhD Students, assistant supervisor


Interview about my research in the Swedish podcast "Forskarn & jag"