Experimental facilitation of heat loss affects work rate and innate immune function in a breeding passerine bird

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The capacity to get rid of excess heat produced during hard work is a possible constraint on parental effort during reproduction [heat dissipation limit (HDL) theory]. We released hard-working blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) from this constraint by experimentally removing ventral plumage. We then assessed whether this changed their reproductive effort (feeding rate and nestling size) and levels of self-maintenance (change in body mass and innate immune function). Feather-clipped females reduced the number of feeding visits and increased levels of constitutive innate immunity compared with unclipped females but did not fledge smaller nestlings. Thus, they increased self-maintenance without compromising current reproductive output. In contrast, feather clipping did not affect the number of feeding visits or innate immune function in males, despite increased heat loss rate. Our results show that analyses of physiological parameters, such as constitutive innate immune function, can be important when trying to understand sources of variation in investment in self-maintenance versus reproductive effort and that risk of overheating can influence innate immune function during reproduction.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb219790
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology
  • Zoology


  • bird
  • immune response
  • immune defense
  • overheating§
  • heat loss
  • thermoregulation
  • climate change


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