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Ostrich chick humoral immune responses and growth rate are predicted by parental immune responses and paternal colouration

  • Maud Bonato
  • Matthew R. Evans
  • Dennis Hasselquist
  • Richard B. Sherley
  • Schalk W. P. Cloete
  • Michael I. Cherry
Publishing year: 2013
Language: English
Pages: 1891-1901
Publication/Series: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume: 67
Issue: 12
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

One of the most important measures of offspring performance is growth rate, which is often traded off against another important survival trait, immune function. A particular feature of ostrich chicks maintained in farmed environments is that cohorts of chicks vary widely in size. As parents can have a profound effect on the phenotype and fitness of their offspring, we investigated whether chick growth and immune defence were related to variation in levels of immune defence in their genetic parents. As secondary sexual traits of sires could serve as indicators of male quality, and be used in female mating decisions, we also investigated whether chick growth rate and immune defence were related to male plumage and integumentary colouration. We found that offspring growth rates and humoral responses were related to the humoral responses of their parents, suggesting that at least some components of humoral immune capacity are heritable. The white colour of male ostrich feathers was correlated to the humoral response and growth rate of their offspring, suggesting that this visual cue involved in the male courtship display could serve as an important signal to females of male quality, thereby forming the basis of mate choice in this species.


  • Biological Sciences
  • Struthio camelus
  • PHA injection
  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Plumage
  • colouration
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Immunocompetence


  • ISSN: 1432-0762
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"