Birds of Indian Subcontinent

How Coccidian Parasites Affect Health and Appearance of Greenfinches

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2004
Authors:Hõrak, P, Saks, L, Karu, U, Ots, I, Surai, PF, McGraw, KJ
Journal:Journal of Animal Ecology
Date Published:2004
ISBN Number:00218790
Keywords:Carduelis, Carduelis chloris, Chloris, Chloris chloris, Fringillidae
Abstract:1. The aim of this study was to examine the mechanisms by which parasites can affect the expression of ornamental traits. 2. Levels of an intestinal coccidian parasite, Isospora lacazei, were manipulated in captive male greenfinches (Carduelis chloris) by suppressing the natural infections with a coccidiostatic sulphonamide drug. Subsequently, half the birds were experimentally infected, while another half continued receiving medication. 3. Over the course of the experiment the effect of our treatments upon 14 mainly haemato-serological condition indices was recorded. Additionally, changes in colour and carotenoid content of yellow tail and breast feathers, which serve as sexually dimorphic ornamental traits, were measured. 4. Eighty-nine per cent of birds hosted chronic isosporan infection before the experiment, yet experimental inoculation with mixed parasite strains resulted in drastic but transient decreases in serum carotenoid, vitamin E, triglyceride and albumin concentrations, and reduced body mass, indicating serious patthology and probable nutrient malabsorption due to damaged intestinal epithelium. 5. Laboratory-grown tail feathers of infected birds contained 52% less carotenoids and also had smaller values of chroma and hue than those of medicated birds. 6. These results suggest that coccidian infection reduced the expression of plumage coloration by creating a deficiency of carotenoids available for deposition in ornamental feathers.
Short Title:Journal of Animal Ecology
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith