New Work Shows Relation Between Song Complexity & Immune Strategy

March 15th, 2014

Research done by Western University researchers reveals that song complexity, learned early in life, relates to innate extra-cellular immunity in song sparrows.

Work done by Shawn Kubli and Beth MacDougall-Shackleton (University of Western Ontario) at QUBS Bracken Tract has provided new insights into the relation between song complexity and immune response in song sparrows (Melospiza melodia). Immune responses can be cell-mediated (i.e. independent of antibodies, and involving activities of phagocytes, release of cytokines etc.) or antibody-based non-cellular immunity. Kubli and MacDougall-Shackleton evaluated components of song and distinct facets of the immune system in song sparrows. They found that song complexity of male song sparrows, which develops early in life, was a good predictor of non-cellular immunity; they also found that there was an negative relation between cell-mediated and non-cellular immunity. In other words, individuals that relied more on non-cell-mediated immune response tended to not deploy cell-mediated immune responses and vice versa. This latter results perhaps explains why previous authors have failed to find a consistent result between immune-response and male signal quality, as they have failed to disentangle different components of immune response.

For more information read the news release published on the American Naturalist web site where the article will be published.

Song sparrow
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