Intense flight and endotoxin injection elicit similar effects on leukocyte distributions but dissimilar effects on plasma-based immunoplogical indices in pigeons

K.D. Matson, N.P.C. Horrocks, B.I. Tieleman, E. Haase

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Most birds rely on flight for survival. Yet as an energetically taxing and physiologically integrative process, flight has many repercussions. Studying pigeons (Columba livia) and employing physiological and immunological indices that are relevant to ecologists working with wild birds, we determined what, if any, acute immune-like responses result from bouts of intense, non-migratory flight. We compared the effects of flight with the effects of a simulated bacterial infection. We also investigated indices in terms of their post-flight changes within individuals and their relationship with flight speed among individuals. Compared to un-flown controls, flown birds exhibited significant elevations in numbers of heterophils relative to numbers of lymphocytes and significant reductions in numbers of eosinophils and monocytes. Furthermore, within-individual changes in concentrations of an acute phase protein were greater in flown birds than in controls. However, none of the flight-affected indices showed any evidence of being related to flight speed. While some of the effects of flight were comparable to the effects of the simulated bacterial infection, other effects were observed only after one of these two physiological challenges. Our study suggests that flight by pigeons yields immune-like responses, and these responses have the potential to complicate the conclusions drawn by ecologists regarding immune function in free-living birds. Still, a better understanding of the repercussions of flight can help clarify the ties between the physiology of exercise and the disease ecology of migration and will ultimately assist in the broader goal of accounting for immunological variation within and among species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3734-3741
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume215
Issue number21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • constitutive immune function
  • homing pigeons
  • protein catabolism
  • migratory flight
  • oxidative status
  • passerine birds
  • columba-livia
  • long flights
  • wind-tunnel
  • great tits

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