Seasonal and age-related changes in blood parasite prevalence in Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis, Aves, Passeriformes)

Pierre Deviche, Ellis C. Greiner, Xavier Manteca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

57 Scopus citations

Abstract

We determined seasonal changes in blood parasite infections in a free-living population of Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) breeding in interior Alaska (65 °N; 148 °W). The common parasites found in blood smears were Leucocytozoon fringillinarum (56%), Trypanosoma avium (33%), and Haemoproteus fringillae (9%). In males, parasite prevalences were relatively high at arrival on breeding grounds and increased during the breeding season. Intensity of infection with Leucocytozoon also increased between spring and summer, and then decreased at the time of migration (September). This decrease did not occur in adult females. Elevated prevalences during the breeding season probably reflected the addition of new cases via vector activity to positive status resulting from spring relapse. We observed neither an association between parasite species nor a consistent relationship between parasite intensity and body condition. To further study relationships between reproductive system activity and parasite infections, we compared prevalences in adult males that were undergoing their first cycle of gonadal development and regression (males in their second calendar year, or SY) with those of older males (males in their third or more calendar year, i.e., after-second-year males or ASY). Circulating testosterone concentrations declined in both groups between arrival on breeding grounds (end of April-early May) and the end of the reproductive period (July), and they were higher in May in ASY than in SY males. At the peak of the breeding season (June), ASY males also had a higher parasite prevalence than SY males. This difference may have resulted from immunosuppressive effects of gonadal hormones and/or from behavioral differences between SY and ASY males such that older males were exposed to more insect vectors than younger males.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-466
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology
Volume289
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

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