Hummingbirds are essential pollinators in many ecosystems, making their conservation critical. As is the case with many species, hummingbirds are now facing a variety of challenges resulting from anthropogenic changes. As populations shift and species interactions change, disease is likely to pose a significant threat. There is a basic understanding of which pathogens currently affect a variety of hummingbird species, however there is a paucity of information about their immune systems capacity to kill pathogens and what specific factors may affect immunity. The objective of this study was to gain a basic understanding of the effect of age, sex, and molt on the constitutive innate immunity of hummingbirds. An in vitro assay was used to assess the microbiocidal capacity of the whole blood of Anna's Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) against three different microbes: Escherichia coli (E. coli), Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Candida albicans (C. albicans). The effect of age, sex and molt on anti-microbial capacity varied based on the microbe type. After-hatch-year birds tended to have better anti-microbial capacity compared to hatch-year birds. Male birds had higher anti-microbial activity than female birds, although this was not observed against C. albicans. Molting birds had a weaker antimicrobial activity against E. coli and S. aureus than birds that were not molting. These results represent an important first step towards defining the parameters of constitutive innate immunity of Anna's Hummingbirds as well as providing important knowledge about factors that should be considered when evaluating the health of wild populations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)