Effects of testosterone and corticosterone on immunocompetence in the zebra finch.
ABSTRACT The original immunocompetence handicap hypothesis (ICHH) suggested that testosterone has a handicapping effect in males by both promoting the development of sexual signals and suppressing immune function. A modified version, the stress-linked ICHH, has recently proposed that testosterone is immunosuppressive indirectly by increasing production of corticosterone. To test both the original and stress-mediated versions of the ICHH, we implanted male zebra finches taken from lines selected for divergent maximum stress-induced levels of corticosterone (high, low and control) with either empty or testosterone-filled implants. Their humoral and cell-mediated immune responses were then assessed by challenge with diphtheria:tetanus vaccine and phytohemagglutinin respectively. We found no effect of the hormone manipulations on either PHA or tetanus antibody responses, but found a significant interaction between titers of both testosterone and corticosterone on diphtheria secondary antibody response; antibody response was greatest in individuals with high levels of both hormones. There was also a significant interactive effect between testosterone treatment group and corticosterone titer on body mass; the body mass of males in the elevated testosterone treatment group decreased with increasing corticosterone titer. These results suggest that, contrary to the assumption of the stress-mediated version of the ICHH, high plasma levels of corticosterone are not immunosuppressive, but are in fact immuno-enhancing in the presence of high levels of plasma testosterone. Equally, the central assumption of the ICHH that testosterone is obligately immunosuppressive is also not supported. The same individuals with the highest levels of both hormones and consequently the most robust antibody response also possessed the lowest body mass.
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ABSTRACT: To determine reference levels for on-farm stressors on immune responsiveness and growth rate, 253 hatchling crocodiles from 11 known breeding pairs were repeatedly measured and blood sampled during their first year. Plasma corticosterone (CORT) was used to quantify baseline stress levels in captive animals and were found to be lower (mean 1.83 ± SE 0.16 ng/mL) than previously reported in saltwater crocodile hatchlings. Two tests of immune function were also conducted. Innate constitutive immunity was assessed using bacterial killing assays (BKA) against two bacterial species: Escherichia coli and Providencia rettgeri, whereby the latter causes considerable economic loss to industry from septicaemic mortalities. Although the bactericidal capabilities were different at approximately 4 months old (32 ± 3% for E. coli and 16 ± 4% for P. rettgeri), the differences had disappeared by approximately 9 months old (58 ± 2% and 68 ± 6%, respectively). To assess immune responsiveness to a novel antigen, the inflammatory swelling response caused by phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) injection was assessed but was only significantly different between Samplings 1 and 3 (5% LSD). There were no significant clutch effects for CORT or PHA but there were for both BKA traits. CORT was not significantly associated with growth (head length) or the immune parameters except for P. rettgeri BKA where higher CORT levels were associated with better bactericidal capability. As such, these results suggest that the crocodiles in this study are not stressed, therefore endorsing the management strategies adopted within the Australian industry Code of Practice.General and Comparative Endocrinology 02/2015; 212:63-72. DOI:10.1016/j.ygcen.2015.01.023 · 2.67 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Sex-biased parasitism is found in many species, but the skew to one sex or the other varies and is most likely due to differences in host and parasite behaviour and the intensity of sexual selection. We examined sex-biased parasitism in Richardson’s ground squirrels (Urocitellus richardsonii (Sabine, 1822)) and hypothesized that males would be more heavily parasitized than females, as they are larger, have larger home ranges, and display high aggression and fighting during the short mating season, suggesting that they may trade off investment in immunity for higher investment in reproduction. Squirrels were caught during the mating season and examined for endoparasites and ectoparasites. Body mass, condition, and immune measures were recorded. Males had higher nematode prevalence and abundance, whereas females had higher flea prevalence. Males also had lower lymphocytes than females, as well as higher neutrophil to lymphocyte ratios. Females had higher eosinophils and they were in poorer body condition than males. The higher endoparasite loads in males suggests that they may be trading off immunity, whereas higher flea prevalence in females may be due to differences in sociality between the sexes. Our study demonstrates the importance of examining multiple parasite types to understand the factors influencing sex-biased parasitism.Canadian Journal of Zoology 01/2014; 92(1). DOI:10.1139/cjz-2013-0151 · 1.35 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: One contribution of 18 to a Theme Issue 'Assessing risks and impacts of pharmaceuticals in the environment on wildlife and ecosystems'. Many wildlife species forage on sewage-contaminated food, for example, at wastewater treatment plants and on fields fertilized with sewage sludge. The resultant exposure to human pharmaceuticals remains poorly studied for terrestrial species. On the basis of predicted exposure levels in the wild, we administered the common antidepressant fluoxetine (FLUOX) or control treat-ment via prey to wild-caught starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) for 22 weeks over winter. To investigate responses to fluoxetine, birds were moved from their group aviaries into individual cages for 2 days. Boldness, exploration and activity levels showed no treatment effects but controls and FLUOX birds habi-tuated differently to isolation in terms of the concentration of corticosterone (CORT) metabolites in faeces. The controls that excreted higher concentrations of CORT metabolites on day 1 lost more body mass by day 2 of isolation than those which excreted lower levels of CORT metabolites. CORT metabolites and mass loss were unrelated in FLUOX birds. When we investigated the move-ments of birds in their group aviaries, we found the controls made a higher frequency of visits to food trays than FLUOX birds around the important fora-ging periods of sunrise and sunset, as is optimal for wintering birds. Although individual variability makes interpreting the sub-lethal endpoints measured challenging, our data suggest that fluoxetine at environmentally relevant concentrations can significantly alter behaviour and physiology.Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 11/2014; 369(1656). DOI:10.1098/rstb.2013.0575 · 6.31 Impact Factor