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Does avian malaria infection affect feather stable isotope signatures?

Author:
  • Elizabeth Yohannes
  • Vaidas Palinauskas
  • Gediminas Valkiunas
  • Raymond W. Lee
  • Casimir V. Bolshakov
  • Staffan Bensch
Publishing year: 2011
Language: English
Pages: 937-942
Publication/Series: Oecologia
Volume: 167
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

It is widely accepted that stable isotope ratios in inert tissues such as feather keratin reflect the dietary isotopic signature at the time of the tissue synthesis. However, some elements such as stable nitrogen isotopes can be affected by individual physiological state and nutritional stress. Using malaria infection experiment protocols, we estimated the possible effect of malaria parasite infections on feather carbon (delta C-13) and nitrogen (delta N-15) isotope signatures in juvenile common crossbills Loxia curvirostra. The birds were experimentally infected with Plasmodium relictum (lineage SGS1) and P. ashfordi (GRW2), two widespread parasites of passerines. Experimental birds developed heavy parasitemia of both parasites and maintained high levels throughout the experiment (33 days). We found no significant difference between experimental and control birds in both delta C-13 and delta N-15 values of feathers re-grown. The study shows that even heavy primary infections of malaria parasites do not affect feather delta C-13 and delta N-15 isotopic signatures. The results of this experiment demonstrate that feather isotope values of wild-caught birds accurately reflect the dietary isotopic sources at the time of tissue synthesis even when the animal's immune system might be challenged due to parasitic infection.

Keywords

  • Biological Sciences
  • Plasmodium
  • Stable isotopes
  • Infection experiment
  • Loxia curvirostra

Other

Published
  • ISSN: 1432-1939
Staffan Bensch
E-mail: staffan [dot] bensch [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor

MEMEG

+46 46 222 42 92

E-C213

Sölvegatan 37, Lund

50

Head of unit

MEMEG

+46 46 222 42 92

E-C213

Sölvegatan 37, Lund

50

Research group

Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab

Projects

Doctoral students and postdocs

PhD students, main supervisor

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