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Malaria infections reinforce competitive asymmetry between two Ficedula flycatchers in a recent contact zone
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal Ecology.
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal Ecology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1178-4053
2013 (English)In: Molecular Ecology, ISSN 0962-1083, E-ISSN 1365-294X, Vol. 22, no 17, 4591-4601 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Parasites may influence the outcome of interspecific competition between closely-related host species through lower parasite virulence in the host with which they share the longer evolutionary history. We tested this idea by comparing the prevalence of avian malaria (Haemosporidia) lineages and their association with survival in pied and collared flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca & F. albicollis) breeding in a recent contact zone on the Swedish island of Öland. A nested PCR protocol amplifying haemosporidian fragments of mtDNA was used to screen the presence of malaria lineages in 1048 blood samples collected during 6 years. Competitively inferior pied flycatchers had a higher prevalence of blood parasites, including the lineages that were shared between the two flycatcher species. Multistate mark-recapture models revealed a lower survival of infected versus uninfected female pied flycatchers, while no such effects were detected in male pied flycatchers or in collared flycatchers of either sex. Our results show that a comparatively new host, the collared flycatcher, appears to be less susceptible to a local northern European malarial lineage where the collared flycatchers have recently expanded their distribution. Pied flycatchers experience strong reproductive interference from collared flycatchers, and the additional impact of species-specific blood parasite effects adds to this competitive exclusion. These results support the idea that parasites can strongly influence the outcome of interspecific competition between closely-related host species, but that the invading species need not necessarily be more susceptible to local parasites.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 22, no 17, 4591-4601 p.
Keyword [en]
annual survival, apparent competition, Haemoproteus, Plasmodium
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-204308DOI: 10.1111/mec.12409ISI: 000323506400018PubMedID: 23980765OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-204308DiVA: diva2:638256
Available from: 2013-07-29 Created: 2013-07-29 Last updated: 2015-11-24Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Avian malaria, life-history trade-offs and interspecific competition in Ficedula flycatchers
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Avian malaria, life-history trade-offs and interspecific competition in Ficedula flycatchers
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates the impact of avian malaria (Haemosporidia) parasites on the outcome of interspecific competition between two closely related bird species, pied (Ficedula hypoleuca) and collared (F. albicollis) flycatchers. I further investigated how variation in timing of breeding, life history strategies and immune competence genes (MHC genes) modulate the fitness effects of malaria parasites in one of the two species i.e. collared flycatchers. Collared flycatchers colonized the Baltic island Öland in the late 1950-ties and has since then been expanding their breeding range while competitively excluding pied flycatchers from the favourable habitats (deciduous forests). I investigated the underlying mechanisms behind this exclusion by combining detailed long-term breeding data with modern molecular genetic techniques identifying both the presence/absence and lineage specificity of haemosporidian blood parasites. I found that the rapid decline of pied flycatchers can be explained by the combined effects of competition over nestling sites, hybridization and haemosporidian infections. Haemosporidian infections have a negative impact on survival of pied flycatcher females but no detectable effect on collared flycatchers’ longevity or reproductive success. This may be due to the fact that collared flycatchers carry (and are potentially exposed to) a higher diversity of parasites than pied flycatchers, which in turn may select for a higher diversity of MHC genes and hence a better overall protection from the negative impact of parasites. Indeed, functional MHC diversity correlates negatively with malaria prevalence among collared flycatchers from Gotland. Moreover, I found that both, malaria infection intensity and immunoglobulin level influences how infected collared flycatchers respond to increased nestling food-demands. The latter results mean that there is variation in allocation strategies (i.e. in resource allocation between reproductive effort and immune competence) within the collared flycatcher population. Hence, this population has the ability to respond to novel selection pressures in terms of optimal allocation of resources into immune functions. In summary, my results show that local parasites may facilitate the expansion of a new colonizer. This is important in the context of global climate change that will probably increase the colonization rate of southern species and lead to novel host-parasite interactions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2013. 59 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1056
Blood parasites, competitive asymmetry, immunocompetence, interspecific competition, life-history trade-offs, MHC, parasite-driven selection
National Category
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-204349 (URN)978-91-554-8708-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-09-13, Zootisalen, Evolution Museum Building, Uppsala, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2013-08-23 Created: 2013-07-31 Last updated: 2015-11-24Bibliographically approved

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