Age-specific haemosporidian infection dynamics and survival in Seychelles warblers

Martijn Hammers, Jan Komdeur, Sjouke Kingma, Kimberly Hutchings, Eleanor Fairfield, Danielle Gilroy, David Richardson

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Parasites may severely impact the fitness and life-history of their hosts. After infection, surviving individuals may suppress the growth of the parasite, or completely clear the infection and develop immunity. Consequently, parasite prevalence is predicted to decline with age. Among elderly individuals, immunosenescence may lead to a late-life increase in infection prevalence. We used a 21-year longitudinal dataset from one population of individually-marked Seychelles warblers (Acrocephalus sechellensis) to investigate age-dependent prevalence of the GRW1 strain of the intracellular protozoan blood parasite Haemoproteus nucleocondensus and whether infections with this parasite affect age-dependent survival. We analyzed 2454 samples from 1431 individuals and found that H. nucleocondensus infections could rarely be detected in nestlings. Prevalence increased strongly among fledglings and peaked among older first year birds. Prevalence was high among younger adults and declined steeply until ca 4 years of age, after which it was stable. Contrary to expectations, H. nucleocondensus prevalence did not increase among elderly individuals and we found no evidence that annual survival was lower in individuals suffering from an infection. Our results suggest that individuals clear or suppress infections and acquire immunity against future infections, and provide no evidence for immunosenescence nor an impact of chronic infections on survival.
Original languageEnglish
Article number29720
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2016

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