Parent Kittiwakes experience a decrease in cell-mediated immunity as they breed
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The maintenance of an effective immune system may entail physiological costs only affordable by individuals in good condition. Some species, like Black-legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) in the high arctic, experience important physiological changes during breeding in order to fulfil their reproductive goals. We studied the effects of breeding effort on the cell-mediated immunity (CMI) of adult breeding Kittiwakes. Parent Kittiwakes showed a significant decrease in CMI from hatching to 15 days into the chick-rearing period, when both parents are known to experience a drastic increase in energy expenditure together with important physiological adjustments. Despite being a long-lived species with biparental care, parent Kittiwakes at the northern border of their breeding range, seem to experience important reproductive immunosupression, even during favourable breeding years.
KeywordsCosts of reproduction Immunocompetence PHA Phytohemagglutinin High arctic Rissa tridactyla
Permission to carry out the study in the Kittiwake colonies was provided by the Governor of Svalbard (Sysselmannen; ref. 2004/00884-4 a522-01), while permission to perform the PHA injections was given by the Norwegian National Animal Research Authority (Forsøksdyrutvalget; ref. 2005/20577). J.B. was funded by EC Marie Curie EVK1-CT-2002-57003 fellowship, while B.R., C.B. and M.L. were funded by Norwegian Polar Institute. Thanks are due to to the staff at Kings Bay and Norsk Polarinstitutt for logistic support. We also thank Geir Wing Gabrielsen and Olivier Chastel for help during the field season. We are indebted with Jordi Figuerola for his valuable comments on previous versions of the manuscript.
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