Interactions between social behaviour and the acute phase immune response in house finches

in Behaviour
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In social organisms, immune-mediated behavioural changes (sickness behaviours) can both influence and respond to social dynamics. We tested whether social status in house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) modulates the acute phase response or aggressive interactions with flockmates. We treated subordinate or dominant finches within captive flocks with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to stimulate an acute phase response (APR), and quantified mass loss, activity, foraging behaviours, and agonistic interactions. Subordinate finches lost more mass than dominants in response to LPS, but social status did not influence the expression of sickness behaviours (activity and foraging) upon LPS injection. LPS-injected subordinate birds experienced reduced aggression from mid-ranking but not dominant flockmates, indicating status-mediated effects of sickness behaviour on agonistic interactions. Our results suggest that social status in house finches influences one component of the APR (mass loss) and can interact with the APR to modulate intraspecific agonistic interactions in ways likely relevant for disease transmission.

Interactions between social behaviour and the acute phase immune response in house finches

in Behaviour



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    Predicted means and standard errors of changes in mass (g) upon LPS or control injection for dominant and subordinate house finches. Changes were calculated by subtracting pre-injection values from post-injection values. Subordinate birds lost more mass than dominant birds in response to LPS injection (p=0.022).

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    (a) Predicted means and standard errors of activity (PC1) upon LPS injection versus control injection for dominant and subordinate house finches. Both dominant and subordinate individuals showed a significant reduction in activity when injected with LPS (p<0.001), but activity levels were not influenced by social status. (b) Predicted means and standard errors of changes in foraging behaviour (PC2) upon LPS or control injection for dominant and subordinate house finches. Foraging activities were significantly influenced by social status (p=0.032), but were not strongly influenced by LPS injection (p=0.086).

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    (a) Predicted means and standard errors of aggression received by subordinate birds. Subordinate birds received significantly less aggression from mid-ranked birds but not dominant birds upon LPS treatment (p=0.0034). (b) Predicted means and standard errors of aggression initiated by dominant birds. Dominant house finches significantly reduced the amount of aggression they initiated upon LPS injection (p<0.001), regardless of flockmate identity.


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