Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Innate Immunity in Nestling and Adult Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor)




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



The innate immune system is the immediate and first-line of defense against pathogens in animals. Innate immunity is especially important in developing juveniles but few studies have investigated the pattern of development. While the ability to respond to pathogens confers fitness benefits in terms of health, survival and therefore future reproductive success, this may be in competition with such functions such as rapid growth since energy is a limiting resource. Rapid growth is a characteristic of early development so that innate immunity may be limited initially and should increase as individuals mature. We examined the patterns of innate immunity in nestling tree swallows over two seasons using an microbiocidal assay. The patterns of development and their relationship to growth patterns and other measures of fitness show a pattern of increasing development but also show that nestlings just prior to fledging have not fully developed adult levels of innate immunity. Additionally, nestlings just prior to fledging show higher variability in innate immunity levels as compared to adults.

Conference Name

Association of Field Ornithologists

Conference Location

Ogden, Utah

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