, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 510-515

Prelaying maternal condition modifies the association between egg mass and T cell-mediated immunity in kestrels

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Abstract

Theoretical models of parental care predict differential allocation in relation to the expected fitness of the offspring. As birds must allocate all the resources required for embryonic development in self-contained packages, maternal egg allocation takes a central role in avian life histories. It is predicted that mothers can influence offspring performance by varying the size or composition of their eggs. In this context, T cell-mediated immune response has been revealed as a valuable tool to evaluate fledgling fitness. However, little is known about its relationships to egg mass. I describe a negative association between egg mass and cellular immune response in Eurasian kestrel nestlings (Falco tinnunculus) throughout 3 years. To explore how environmental conditions could mediate this relationship, I experimentally supplied food to females before egg formation in the third study year. I found that this relationship turned to positive in food-supplied females without any effect on egg size. This result shows that environmental conditions before egg formation mediate the relationship between egg mass and future immune response of the nestlings. I suggest that females may be constrained in improving the future immune response of their offspring due to resource allocation trade-offs determined by their pre-laying condition.

Communicated by: J. Graves