, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 236-241
Date: 31 Oct 2003

Social status in relation to Sindbis virus infection clearance in greenfinches

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Abstract

The ability to resist infections can differ between individuals of different social rank. This study investigates if the clearance of an avian virus infection (Sindbis virus) was related to the social status of greenfinches (Carduelis chloris) and if infected birds would decline in social status. The results showed that virus clearance patterns were related to social status. Within groups of birds with similar plumage color (a social status signal), body mass and age, a bird’s social status could be used to predict virus clearance patterns. Dominant birds had higher virus concentrations early in the infection and lower virus titres during later stages of the infection as compared to birds that were subordinates. The infection had no significant effect on previously established social ranks, and ranks that were established during the infection did not appear to be influenced by a bird’s infection status. In conclusion, this study exemplifies a case where the social rank of an individual was a predictor of the ability to clear a viral infection. The underlying physiological mechanisms of this relationship remain to be further investigated.

Communicated by C. Brown