Evol Ecol Res 5: 259-272 (2003)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Environmental, genetic and maternal components of immunocompetence of nestling pied flycatchers from a cross-fostering study

Juan José Soler,1* Juan Moreno2 and Jaime Potti3

1Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas-CSIC, General Segura 1, 04001 Almeira, 2Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales-CSIC, J. Gutierrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid and 3Departamento de Biología Animal, Universidad de Alcalá, 28871 Alcalá de Henares, Spain

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: jsoler@eeza.csic.es


Genetic, environmental and maternal effects can all affect the phenotypic expression of a trait. Through cross-fostering experiments in nesting birds, variation due to genetic and environmental effects can be partitioned and identified as being due to nest of origin and nest of rearing in a two-factor nested analysis of variance, but both can be confounded with maternal effects if their phenotypic influences depend upon the environment in which nestlings develop. In this article, we adopt a widely applied two-factor nested design using data for T-cell-mediated immune responses of nestling pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) from a cross-fostering experiment. We use maternal immune responses and differences between immune responses of mothers as covariables that accounted for a significant proportion of variance in nestling immunocompetence. This suggests that those variables can also be used in multiple regression analyses to explore genetic and environmental effects on nestling traits. Finally, we use differences among nestlings (siblings, non-siblings and reared or not in the same nest) while using trait values of mothers and differences between mothers to control for genetic and environmental effects, respectively, to explore possible maternal effects affecting nestling immune responses. Our results suggest a strong environmental effect on nestling immune response, which includes a significant maternal effect.

Keywords: environmental factors, Ficedula hypoleuca, genetic factors, immune response, maternal effects, pied flycatcher.

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