Not just fuel: energy stores are correlated with immune function and oxidative damage in a long-distance migrant.

Cas Eikenaar, Arne Hegemann, Florian Packmor, Iris Kleudgen , Caroline Isaksson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In many animals, catabolic and anabolic periods are temporally separated. Migratory birds alternate energy expenditure during flight with energy accumulation during stopover. The size of the energy stores at stopover affects the decision to resume migration and thus the temporal organization of migration. We now provide data suggesting that it is not only the size of the energy stores per se that may influence migration scheduling, but also the physiological consequences of flying. In two subspecies of the northern wheatear
Oenanthe oenanthe, a long-distance migrant, estimated energy stores at a stopover during autumn migration were positively related with both
constitutive innate and acquired immune function, and negatively related with oxidative damage to lipids. In other words, migrants’ physiological condition was associated with their energetic condition. Although time spent at stopover before sampling may have contributed to this relationship, our results suggest that migrants have to trade-off the depletion of energy stores during flight with
incurring physiological costs. This will affect migrants’ decisions when to start and when to terminate a migratory flight. The physiological costs associated with the depletion of energy stores may also help explaining why migrants often arrive at and depart from stopover sites with larger energy stores than expected. We propose that studies on the role of energy stores as drivers of the temporal organization of (avian) migration need to consider physiological condition, such as immunological and oxidative states.
Original languageEnglish
Article number zoz009
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Zoology
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Not just fuel: energy stores are correlated with immune function and oxidative damage in a long-distance migrant.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this