Higher body condition with infection by Haemoproteus parasites in Bananaquits (Coereba flaveola)


Parasite transmission is a heterogenous process in host-parasite interactions. This heterogeneity is particularly apparent in vector-borne parasite transmission where the vector adds an additional level of complexity. Haemosporidian parasites, a widespread protist, cause a malaria-like disease in birds globally, but we still have much to learn about the consequences of infection to hosts’ health. In the Caribbean, where malarial parasites are endemic, studying host-parasites interactions may give us important insights about energetic trade-offs involved in malarial parasites infections in birds. In this study, we tested the consequences of Haemoproteus infection on the Bananaquit, a resident species of Puerto Rico. We also tested for potential sources of individual heterogeneity in the consequences of infection such as host age and sex. To quantify the consequences of infection to hosts’ health we compared three complementary body condition indices between infected and uninfected individuals. Our results showed that Bananaquits infected by Haemoproteus had higher body condition than uninfected individuals. This result was consistent among the three body condition indices. Still, we found no clear evidence that this effect was mediated by host age or sex. We discuss a set of non-mutually exclusive hypotheses that may explain this pattern including metabolic syndrome, immunological responses leading to host tolerance or resistance to infection, and potential changes in consumption rates. Overall, our results suggest that other mechanisms, may drive the consequences of avian malarial infection.

Click the Cite button above to import publication metadata into your reference management software.
Nicole Gutierrez
Nicole Gutierrez
MS (2019) Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico

My research interests include disease ecology, ornithology, and quantitative ecology.

Miguel Acevedo
Miguel Acevedo
Assistant Professor of Quantitative Wildlife Population Ecology

My research interests include global change, lizard malaria, and quantitative applications for conservation planning.