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Haemosporidian infections affect antioxidant defences in great tits Parus major but are not related to exposure to aerial pollutants

  • DANIELA DE ANGELI DUTRA (a1), PATRÍCIA SILVEIRA (a1), JAIME ALBINO RAMOS (a2), JOSÉ PAULO SOUSA (a3), ÉRIKA MARTINS BRAGA (a1) and ANA CLÁUDIA NORTE (a2)...
Summary

Haemosporidian parasites are widespread in avian species and modulate their ecology, behaviour, life-history and fitness. The prevalence of these vector-transmitted parasites varies with host intrinsic and extrinsic factors, such as host resistance and behaviour, and habitat-related characteristics. In this study, we evaluated the prevalence of avian haemosporidians in great tit Parus major populations inhabiting two areas with different degrees of exposure to aerial emissions from pulp mills, to assess if this type of pollution impacted parasite prevalence. We also compared the physiological condition of infected and uninfected individuals. Haemosporidian infection prevalence was high (58%), varied seasonally, but was not associated with air pollution exposure. Fledged birds presented higher infection rates than nestlings and infected fledged birds had higher levels of blood glutathione peroxidase activity. These results allow us to infer that infection by blood parasites may activate antioxidant defences, possibly to protect the organism from the negative oxidative stress side-effects of immune activation against parasites. Because oxidative stress is one of the mechanisms responsible for ageing and senescence and may affect fitness, the relationship between parasitism and oxidative stress markers should be further investigated through studies that include experimental manipulation of infection in model organisms.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Department of Life Sciences, MARE – Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, University of Coimbra, Largo Marquês de Pombal, 3004-517 Coimbra, Portugal. E-mail: acgnorte@ci.uc.pt
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