Introduced and Native Congeners Use Different Resource Allocation Strategies to Maintain Performance During Infection

Courtney A.C. Coon

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Hosts can manage parasitic infections using an array of tactics, which are likely to vary contingent on coevolutionary history between the host and the parasite. Here we asked whether coping ability of congeners that differ in host-parasite coevolutionary history differed in response to experimental infections with a coccidian parasite. House sparrows (Passer domesticus) and gray-headed sparrows (Passer griseus) are sympatric and ecologically similar, but house sparrows are recent colonizers of Kenya, the site of our comparison, whereas gray-headed sparrows are native. We evaluated three variables as barometers of infection coping ability: vertical flight, pectoral muscle size, and fat score. We also measured routing of a dose of 13C-labeled leucine, an essential amino acid, among tissues to compare resource allocation strategies in response to infection. We found that burden effects on performance were minimal in both species, but house sparrows maintained considerably higher burdens than gray-headed sparrows regardless of exposure. House sparrows also had more exogeneous leucine tracer in all tissues after 24 h, demonstrating a difference in the way the two species allocate or distribute resources. We argue that house sparrows may be maintaining larger resource reserves to mitigate costs associated with exposure and infection. Additionally, in response to increased parasite exposure, gray-headed sparrows had less leucine tracer in their spleens and more in their gonads, whereas house sparrows did not change allocation, perhaps indicating a trade-off that is not experienced by the introduced species.