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Moreno-Rueda G.,Konrad Lorenz Institute For Vergleichende Verhaltensforschung | Moreno-Rueda G.,University of Granada
Journal of Avian Biology | Year: 2010

The uropygial gland is an organ exclusive of birds that secretes an oily substance, the uropygial secretion, the functions of which are still debated. One of the proposed hypothesis is its possible action against chewing lice (order Phthiraptera), a group of avian ectoparasites that feed on feathers, causing different types of harm. However, this hypothesis lacks support. The present study analyses the relationship between uropygial gland size and the number of feather holes (which is correlated with the load of chewing lice) in the house sparrow Passer domesticus. Moreover, the relationship between the uropygial gland size and different aspects of sparrow health (body condition, immunocompetence and haematocrit), as well as sexually selected traits in males (badge and wingbar size), is tested. The results show a negative correlation between uropygial gland size and number of feather holes, a result found both years of the study. This result supports the hypothesis that uropygial secretion is used against chewing lice. Uropygial gland size also correlated positively with body condition (residuals of body mass relative to tarsus length) and immunocompetence, being therefore related to bird health. After a year in captivity, with resources provided ad libitum, no correlation was found between individual uropygial gland size and body condition or haematocrit, perhaps because the negative effect that chewing lice exert on bird health was offset by captivity conditions. Uropygial gland size was not correlated with badge size, but it was correlated with wingbar size, which furthermore supports the contention that this sexually selected signal acts as an indicator of lice resistance in the house sparrow. In summary, this study supports the idea of a positive relationship between uropygial gland and bird health in the house sparrow, the gland secretion affording resistance against chewing lice. © 2010 The Authors.

Castro J.,University of Granada | Moreno-Rueda G.,Konrad Lorenz Institute For Vergleichende Verhaltensforschung | Moreno-Rueda G.,University of Granada | Hodar J.A.,University of Granada
Conservation Biology | Year: 2010

There is an intense debate about the effects of postfire salvage logging versus nonintervention policies on regeneration of forest communities, but scant information from experimental studies is available. We manipulated a burned forest area on a Mediterranean mountain to experimentally analyze the effect of salvage logging on bird-species abundance, diversity, and assemblage composition. We used a randomized block design with three plots of approximately 25 ha each, established along an elevational gradient in a recently burned area in Sierra Nevada Natural and National Park (southeastern Spain). Three replicates of three treatments differing in postfire burned wood management were established per plot: salvage logging, nonintervention, and an intermediate degree of intervention (felling and lopping most of the trees but leaving all the biomass). Starting 1 year after the fire, we used point sampling to monitor bird abundance in each treatment for 2 consecutive years during the breeding and winter seasons (720 censuses total). Postfire burned-wood management altered species assemblages. Salvage logged areas had species typical of openand early-successional habitats. Bird species that inhabit forests were still present in the unsalvaged treatments even though trees were burned, but were almost absent in salvage-logged areas. Indeed, the main dispersers of midand late-successional shrubs and trees, such as thrushes (Turdus spp.) and the European Jay (Garrulus glandarius) were almost restricted to unsalvaged treatments. Salvage logging might thus hamper the natural regeneration of the forest through its impact on assemblages of bird species. Moreover, salvage logging reduced species abundance by 50% and richness by 40%, approximately. The highest diversity at the landscape level (gamma diversity) resulted from a combination of all treatments. Salvage logging may be positive for bird conservation if combined in a mosaic with other, less-aggressive postfire management, but stand-wide management with harvest operations has undesirable conservation effects. © 2009 Society for Conservation Biology.

Moreno-Rueda G.,Konrad Lorenz Institute For Vergleichende Verhaltensforschung | Moreno-Rueda G.,CSIC - Estacion Experimental De Zonas Aridas
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2010

Parent-offspring conflict predicts that offspring should demand a greater parental investment than is optimal for their parents to deliver. This would escalate the level of offspring demand ad infinitum, but most of the models on the evolution of parent-offspring communication predict that begging must be costly, such costs limiting the escalation and defining an optimal level of begging. However, empirical evidence on this issue is mixed. A potential begging cost that remains to be accurately explored is a decrease in immunocompetence for offspring begging fiercely. This study experimentally analyses this cost in house sparrow (Passer domesticus) nestlings. A group of nestlings was forced to beg fiercely for a prolonged time while a control group begged at low levels, both groups receiving the same quantity of food. At the same time, the nestling response to an antigen (phytohaemagglutinin) was measured. Nestlings forced to beg fiercely showed a reduction in immunocompetence with respect to control chicks, but the two groups showed no difference in growth rate. The largest and the smallest nestlings in each brood showed a similar response to the treatment. These results strongly suggest a trade-off between begging and immunocompetence in this species. This trade-off may be a consequence either of resources from the immune system being reallocated to begging behaviour, or of adaptive immunosuppression in order to avoid oxidative stress. Steroid hormones are proposed as mediators of such a trade-off. ©2010 The Royal Society.

Moreno-Rueda G.,Konrad Lorenz Institute For Vergleichende Verhaltensforschung
Ibis | Year: 2011

This study assesses whether uropygial gland size is related to improved feather quality. To address this question, I analysed the relationship between uropygial gland size and feather wear in the House Sparrow Passer domesticus. The results show that birds with larger uropygial glands had less worn feathers, suggesting that uropygial gland secretions improve feather resistance to abrasion. © 2010 The Author. Journal compilation © 2010 British Ornithologists' Union.

Lopez-de-Hierro M.D.G.,University of Granada | Moreno-Rueda G.,University of Granada | Moreno-Rueda G.,Konrad Lorenz Institute For Vergleichende Verhaltensforschung
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology | Year: 2010

Brood parasitism could be a selective pressure on each female to have a type of egg that permits recognition. House sparrows (Passer domesticus) undergo conspecific brood parasitism and can recognise parasitic eggs. In this study, we analyse the effect of relative size in experimental parasitic eggs compared to the host eggs. We modified egg colour and the spot pattern to determine the influence of these characteristics on egg rejection. Furthermore, we examine whether egg rejection increases with "stimulus summation". Our results show that egg rejection is not affected by relative egg size. However, changes in the spot pattern proved to exert the highest influence on egg rejection (32. 4% of trials), significantly higher than when only egg colour is changed (3. 8%). Therefore, our results suggest that parasitism may be a pressure favouring the maintenance of spotted eggs in house sparrow. © Springer-Verlag 2009.

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