Research objectives and content
Avian brood parasitism is a reproductive strategy by which adult cuckoos lay eggs in nests of other species (hosts) which take care of the parasite offspring. Therefore brood parasite nestlings don't have any contact with adult cuckoos during their development resulting in a low rate of specific pathogen infection (Soler et al. 1998, J. Evol. Ecol, in press). The aim of this project is to study the influences of being a brood parasite in terms of risk of infection and level of inmmune response by comparing with non-brood parasite species. For the experimental studies we will use 'in vivo' immunological tests such as the T-cell response (by using phytohaemaglutinin injections), the level of immune globulines in the blood, sedimentation rate, haematocrit, etc. and there also will be used modern comparative methods, which take into account the phylogenetic relationships between species. The aims of this project are (i) to study whether brood parasites have a lower risk of infection and a higher level of immune response than their potential hosts; (ii) to test whether the availability of food is a factor determining the degree of differences in immune response between the great spotted cuckoo and its magpie host; and finally (iii) to study the genetic determinism of the level of immune response in magpie and great spotted cuckoo nestlings.
Training content (objective, benefit and expected impact)
By carrying out this project, I will develop a good knowledge in the use of comparative methods and experimental techniques in evolutionary biology and ecology and I will advance greatly my experience in scientific research. This training will also give me the opportunity to obtain the PhD degree.
Links with industry / industrial relevance (22)