Recovery of constitutive immune function after migratory endurance flight in free-living birds

Cas Eikenaar, Alessia Ostolani, Sven Hessler, Ellen Y. Ye, Arne Hegemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Strenuous physical activity can negatively affect constitutive innate immune function (CIF), the always present first line of defence against pathogens. CIF is non-specific, and thus vital when encountering novel pathogens. A lowered CIF likely increases the risk of infection and disease. Migratory birds engage in truly extreme physical activity during their endurance flights, however, little is known about how they deal with the negative impact this has on their immune function. By collecting both between- and within-individual data we show, for the first time, that free-flying migratory birds can recover several parameters of CIF during stopovers, which are stationary periods in between migratory flights. With this, we provide an important piece of the puzzle on how migrating birds cope with the physiological challenges they face on their biannual journeys. Furthermore, our study stresses the importance of migratory stopovers beyond fuel accumulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20220518
Number of pages5
JournalBiology letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Feb

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Behavioral Sciences Biology
  • Zoology

Free keywords

  • agglutination
  • bacterial killing
  • eco-immunology
  • lysis
  • migration
  • physiological recovery


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