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null (Ed.)Body mass affects many biological traits, but its impacts on immune defences are fairly unknown. Recent research on mammals found that neutrophil concentrations disproportionately increased (scaled hypermetrically) with body mass, a result not predicted by any existing theory. Although the scaling relationship for mammals might predict how leucocyte concentrations scale with body mass in other vertebrates, vertebrate classes are distinct in many ways that might affect their current and historic interactions with parasites and hence the evolution of their immune systems. Subsequently, here, we asked which existing scaling hypothesis best-predicts relationships between body mass and lymphocyte, eosinophil and heterophil concentrations—the avian functional equivalent of neutrophils—among more than 100 species of birds. We then examined the predictive power of body mass relative to life-history variation, as extensive literature indicates that the timing of key life events has influenced immune system variation among species. Finally, we ask whether avian scaling patterns differ from the patterns we observed in mammals. We found that an intercept-only model best explained lymphocyte and eosinophil concentrations among birds, indicating that the concentrations of these cell types were both independent of body mass. For heterophils, however, body mass explained 31% of the variation in concentrations among species, much more than life-history variation (4%). As with mammalian neutrophils, avian heterophils scaled hypermetrically ( b = 0.19 ± 0.05), but more steeply than mammals (approx. 1.5 ×; 0.11 ± 0.03). As such, we discuss why birds might require more broadly protective cells compared to mammals of the same body size. Overall, body mass appears to have strong influences on the architecture of immune systems.more » « less
Body size affects many traits, but often in allometric, or disproportionate ways. For example, large avian and mammalian species circulate far more of some immune cells than expected for their size based on simple geometric principles. To date, such hypermetric immune scaling has mostly been described in zoo‐dwelling individuals, so it remains obscure whether immune hyper‐allometries have any natural relevance. Here, we asked whether granulocyte and lymphocyte allometries in wild birds differ from those described in captive species. Our previous allometric studies of avian immune cell concentrations were performed on animals kept for their lifetimes in captivity where conditions are benign and fairly consistent. In natural conditions, infection, stress, nutrition, climate, and myriad other forces could alter immune traits and hence mask any interspecific scaling relationships between immune cells and body size. Counter to this expectation, we found no evidence that immune cell allometries differed between captive and wild species, although we had to rely on cell proportion data, as insufficient concentration data were available for wild species. Our results indicate that even in variable and challenging natural contexts, immune allometries endure and might affect disease ecology and evolution.