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Study Examines How Pathogens Affect Bird Migration

Whether long-distance animal migration facilitates or hampers pathogen transmission depends on how infections affect the routes and timing of migrating hosts.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018 4:11 am EDT

Whether long-distance animal migration facilitates or hampers pathogen transmission depends on how infections affect the routes and timing of migrating hosts. In a Journal of Zoology study, investigators have found that haemosporidians—blood parasites commonly infecting birds—likely impede migratory performance, as infected individuals lag behind those who are uninfected.

For the study, researchers investigated haemosporidians in 4 passerine species on spring passage, and they linked infection status to passage date. Haemosporidian prevalence virtually doubled between birds sampled at the beginning of the passage period with those sampled one month later. This indicates that infected individuals arrived later than uninfected individuals. However, infection status was not related to any other individual, energetic or haematological variable, except white blood cell counts, which were elevated in infected birds, suggesting that they mounted an immune response that may require resources that could otherwise be allocated to migratory flights. 

“As a consequence of the partial segregation of infected and uninfected individuals, host populations often profit from hampered parasite transmission and reduced parasite prevalence. However, it is still not known whether these profits of infection-related delays can eradicate the costs of a late arrival at the breeding grounds and onset of reproduction”, said lead author Tamara Emmenegger, of the Swiss Ornithological Institute.

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 About Journal

The Journal of Zoology publishes high-quality research papers that are original and are of broad interest. The Editors seek studies that are hypothesis-driven and interdisciplinary in nature. Papers on animal behaviour, ecology, physiology, anatomy, developmental biology, evolution, systematics, genetics and genomics will be considered; research that explores the interface between these disciplines is strongly encouraged. Studies dealing with geographically and/or taxonomically restricted topics should test general hypotheses, describe novel findings or have broad implications.

The Journal of Zoology aims to maintain an effective but fair peer-review process that recognises research quality as a combination of the relevance, approach and execution of a research study.

The journal also welcomes reviews and forum papers on current issues, particularly where topics of a complex or poorly understood field are synthesized. Prospective authors should submit a 300-word abstract, a list of up to 20 key references, and a cover letter (two pages maximum) outlining what will be discussed in the article. Proposals for reviews should be submitted to The submission of completed review manuscripts without prior consultation with the Editor is discouraged.

The Journal of Zoology is a member of and subscribes to the principles of the Committee on Publication Ethics. Papers that report experimental work must comply with the standards laid down by British national or equivalent legislation and the research permit number must be stated in the acknowledgments section of your manuscript.

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