, Volume 60, Issue 4, pp 510-515
Date: 23 May 2006

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

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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