Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 150, Issue 4, pp 815–825

Age and environment affect constitutive immune function in Red Knots (Calidris canutus)

  • Deborah M. Buehler
  • B. Irene Tieleman
  • Theunis Piersma
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10336-009-0402-6

Cite this article as:
Buehler, D.M., Irene Tieleman, B. & Piersma, T. J Ornithol (2009) 150: 815. doi:10.1007/s10336-009-0402-6

Abstract

We studied subspecies, age and environmental effects on constitutive immune function (natural antibody and complement titres, haptoglobin activity and leukocyte concentrations) in Red Knots (Calidris canutus). We compared C. c. islandica and C. c. canutus in the Wadden Sea and found no difference in immune function between subspecies. However, C. c. canutus on their wintering grounds in Banc d’Arguin had higher natural antibody and lower complement levels than C. c. canutus or C. c. islandica in the Wadden Sea. This suggests that immune function is determined more by the surrounding environment than by subspecies. We also compared age classes in the Wadden Sea and found that first year birds had significantly lower natural antibody levels than adults, but that second year birds no longer differed from adults. Finally, we examined the interaction of age and environment in Banc d’Arguin. We found that first year birds (but not adults) in a low quality habitat had higher leukocyte concentrations than first year birds or adults in a high quality habitat. Differences in available resources and defence needs between environments, and differences among individuals differentially distributed between sites, are likely important contributors to the variation in immune function we report. Future studies, which examine these factors on wild birds, will be important for our understanding of how animals function in their natural environment. (220).

Keywords

Immune functionAgeEnvironmentHabitat qualityShorebirds

Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah M. Buehler
    • 1
  • B. Irene Tieleman
    • 1
  • Theunis Piersma
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Animal Ecology Group, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary StudiesUniversity of GroningenHarenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Marine Ecology and EvolutionRoyal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)Den BurgThe Netherlands