Brood size moderates associations between relative size, telomere length, and immune development in European starling nestlings

Nettle, D., Andrews, C., Reichert, S., Bedford, T., Gott, A., Parker, C., Kolenda, C., Martin-Ruiz, C., Monaghan, P. and Bateson, M. (2016) Brood size moderates associations between relative size, telomere length, and immune development in European starling nestlings. Ecology and Evolution, 6(22), pp. 8138-8148. (doi: 10.1002/ece3.2551) (PMID:27891221) (PMCID:PMC5108265)

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Abstract

For young birds in a nest, body size may have implications for other aspects of development such as telomere length and immune function. However, it is possible to predict associations in either direction. On the one hand, there may be trade-offs between growth and telomere maintenance, and growth and investment in immune function, suggesting there will be negative correlations. On the other hand, relatively larger individuals might be advantaged in competition with their nest-mates, allowing them to garner more resources overall, leading to positive correlations. We studied development over the nestling period in 34 nests of wild European starlings, Sturnus vulgaris. Intrabrood competition is typically more intense in larger broods. Hence, we predicted that body size should become an increasingly positive predictor of telomere length and immune functioning as brood size increases. In partial support of our prediction, there were significant interactions between brood size and body size in predicting both erythrocyte telomere length change and plasma levels of the cytokine interleukin-6. The associations between body size and these outcomes went from negative in the smallest broods to positive in the largest. A further immune marker, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, showed no systematic patterning with body size or brood size. Our results confirm that the size to which a nestling grows is important for telomere dynamics and the development of the immune system, but the phenotypic associations are moderated by the competitive context.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Monaghan, Professor Pat and Reichert, Dr Sophie
Authors: Nettle, D., Andrews, C., Reichert, S., Bedford, T., Gott, A., Parker, C., Kolenda, C., Martin-Ruiz, C., Monaghan, P., and Bateson, M.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Ecology and Evolution
Publisher:Wiley
ISSN:2045-7758
ISSN (Online):2045-7758
Published Online:17 October 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
First Published:First published in Ecology and Evolution 6(22): 8138-8148
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
590411Early life adversity, telomere length and adult cognition: the starling as an experimental modelPatricia MonaghanBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)BB/J015091/1RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED
545091ECOTELO - The ecological significance of telomere dynamics:environments, individuals and inheritancePatricia MonaghanEuropean Research Council (ERC)20100317/FP7-268926RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED