Nestling behaviour predicts naris deformation in Darwin’s finches parasitized by the avian vampire fly

Andrew C. Katsis, Diane Colombelli-Négrel, Lauren Common, Jody A. O'Connor, Rachael Y. Dudaniec, Jefferson García-Loor, Sonia Kleindorfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although in-nest parasitism can reduce the fitness of avian hosts, the severity of these effects may vary with host physiology and behaviour. If certain nestling behaviours are beneficial for resisting parasitism, then selection may favour some behavioural phenotypes over others. Here, we tested whether differences in nestling behaviour mediate the negative effects of parasitism, using small ground finches (Geospiza fuliginosa), on Floreana Island, that had been parasitized by the invasive avian vampire fly (Philornis downsi). We first established, using 4 years of breeding data (2005, 2006, 2010 and 2020), that nestlings exposed to more parasites had larger nares and, among older nestlings only, lower body mass. We then examined, using data from the 2020 season, whether each nestling’s behaviour (specifically, its response to human handling) predicted the severity of its naris deformation. When faced with high-intensity parasitism, more responsive nestlings (i.e. those that struggled more during handling) had larger nares compared to more docile nestlings. This suggests that more responsive nestlings suffer greater fitness costs due to parasitism, although we also discuss alternative explanations. Future work should consider the stability and heritability of these nestling behavioural differences and whether parasite-induced selection shapes behavioural variation at the population level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636-649
Number of pages14
JournalBiological Journal of The Linnean Society
Volume134
Issue number3
Early online date31 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Galápagos Islands
  • Geospiza fuliginosa
  • handling aggression
  • parasite
  • personality
  • Philornis downsi

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