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Long-term maternal effect on offspring immune response in song sparrows Melospiza melodia

  • Jane M. Reid
  • Peter Arcese
  • Lukas F. Keller
  • Dennis Hasselquist
Publishing year: 2006
Language: English
Pages: 573-576
Publication/Series: Biology letters
Volume: 2
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Royal Society

Abstract english

Knowledge of the causes of variation in host immunity to parasitic infection and the time-scales over which variation persists, is integral to predicting the evolutionary and epidemiological consequences of host-parasite interactions. It is clear that offspring immunity can be influenced by parental immune experience, for example, reflecting transfer of antibodies from mothers to young offspring. However, it is less clear whether such parental effects persist or have functional consequences over longer time-scales, linking a parent's previous immune experience to future immune responsiveness in fully grown offspring. We used free-living song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) to quantify long-term effects of parental immune experience on offspring immune response. We experimentally vaccinated parents with a novel antigen and tested whether parental vaccination influenced the humoral antibody response mounted by fully grown offspring hatched the following year. Parental vaccination did not influence offspring baseline antibody titres. However, offspring of vaccinated mothers mounted substantially stronger antibody responses than offspring of unvaccinated mothers. Antibody responses did not differ between offspring of vaccinated and unvaccinated fathers. These data demonstrate substantial long-term effects of maternal immune experience on the humoral immune response of fully grown offspring in free-living birds.


  • Biological Sciences
  • selection
  • immunocompetence
  • indirect environmental effect
  • tetanus vaccine
  • parasite-mediated


  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 1744-9561
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


Jacob Roved

PhD Students, main supervisor

PhD Students, assistant supervisor


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