Low intensity blood parasite infections do not reduce the aerobic performance of migratory birds

Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Published: 2018-01-31

DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2307

Affiliations: 3

Authors: 7

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Research Highlight

Malaria-like parasites don’t slow migrating birds

© Javier Fernández Sánchez/Moment/Getty

© Javier Fernández Sánchez/Moment/Getty

Migrating birds don’t appear to suffer any obvious metabolic effects from chronic infection with blood parasites such as those that cause malaria. A team of researchers, led by William Buttemer from The University of Wollongong, have found evidence contrary to the idea that infection with blood parasites has a negative effect on the host bird’s ability to migrate.

They looked at the metabolic effects of infection in migratory great reed warblers deliberately infected with the malaria parasite Plasmodium relictum, and in wild birds naturally infected with Plasmodium or Haemoproteus blood parasites, which feed on the oxygen-carrying haemoglobin in red blood cells. They found no evidence that infection caused a slower metabolic rate either while resting or flying, nor did it reduce the birds’ endurance. The researchers also showed infection did not impact the physical changes, such as an increase in fat stores, that take place as birds get ready to migrate.

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  1. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2307 (2018). doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2307
Institutions FC
Swiss Ornithological Institute, Switzerland 0.43
Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research (IBER), BAS, Bulgaria 0.43
School of Biological Sciences, UOW, Australia 0.14

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