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Testosterone and Haemosporidian Parasites Along a Tropical Elevational Gradient in Rufous-Collared Sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis)

, : Testosterone and Haemosporidian Parasites Along a Tropical Elevational Gradient in Rufous-Collared Sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis). Journal of Experimental Zoology. Part A, Ecological Genetics and Physiology 325(8): 501-510

NlmCategory="UNASSIGNED">Elevation has been proposed as a dominant ecological variable shaping life history traits and subsequently their underlying hormonal mechanisms. In an earlier meta-analysis of tropical birds, elevation was positively related to testosterone levels. Furthermore, parasitism by avian haemosporidians should vary with elevation as environmental conditions affect vector abundance, and while testosterone is needed for breeding, it is hypothesized to be immunosuppressive and thus could exacerbate haemosporidian infection. Our objective in this study was to examine the relationships between elevation, testosterone levels, and parasitism by avian haemosporidians. We surveyed breeding male rufous-collared sparrows (Zonotrichia capensis) across a wide elevational range along the equator. We measured baseline testosterone levels, haemosporidian infection at four elevations spanning the species' natural range in the Ecuadorian Andes (600, 1500, 2100, 3300 m). Testosterone levels from breeding males were not related to elevation, but there was high intrapopulation variability. Testosterone levels were not related to the probability of parasitism, but our results from one population suggested that the likelihood of being infected by haemosporidian parasites was greater when in breeding condition. In conclusion, even though there is variation in life history strategies among the studied populations, wider divergence in seasonality and life history traits would probably be needed to detect an effect of elevation on testosterone if one exists. Additionally, our results show that variation in testosterone is not related to infection risk of haemosporidians, thus other factors that take a toll on energetic resources, such as reproduction, should be looked at more closely.


PMID: 27527346

DOI: 10.1002/jez.2034

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