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1.  The effect of carotenoid supplementation on immune system development in juvenile male veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus) 
Frontiers in Zoology  2014;11:26.
Introduction
Nutrient availability, assimilation, and allocation can have important and lasting effects on the immune system development of growing animals. Though carotenoid pigments have immunostimulatory properties in many animals, relatively little is known regarding how they influence the immune system during development. Moreover, studies linking carotenoids to health at any life stage have largely been restricted to birds and mammals. We investigated the effects of carotenoid supplementation on multiple aspects of immunity in juvenile veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus). We supplemented half of the chameleons with lutein (a xanthophyll carotenoid) for 14 weeks during development and serially measured multiple aspects of immune function, including: agglutination and lysis performance of plasma, wound healing, and plasma nitric oxide concentrations before and after wounding.
Results
Though lutein supplementation effectively elevated circulating carotenoid concentrations throughout the developmental period, we found no evidence that carotenoid repletion enhanced immune function at any point. However, agglutination and lysis scores increased, while baseline nitric oxide levels decreased, as chameleons aged.
Conclusions
Taken together, our results indicate that body mass and age, but not carotenoid access, may play an important role in immune performance of growing chameleons. Hence, studying well-understood physiological processes in novel taxa can provide new perspectives on alternative physiological processes and nutrient function.
doi:10.1186/1742-9994-11-26
PMCID: PMC4022081  PMID: 24655326
Antioxidant; Innate immunity; Nitric oxide; Reptiles; Wound healing
2.  Invasive ants alter foraging and parental behaviors of a native bird 
Introduced species can exert outsized impacts on native biota through both direct (predation) and indirect (competition) effects. Ants frequently become established in new areas after being transported by humans across traditional biological or geographical barriers, and a prime example of such establishment is the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). Introduced to North America in the 1930's, red imported fire ants are now firmly established throughout the southeastern United States. Although these invasive predators can dramatically impact native arthropods, their effect on vertebrates through resource competition is essentially unknown. Using a paired experimental design, we compared patterns of foraging and rates of provisioning for breeding eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) in unmanipulated (control) territories to those in adjacent (treated) territories where fire ants were experimentally reduced. Bluebirds inhabiting treated territories foraged nearer their nests and provisioned offspring more frequently than bluebirds inhabiting control territories with unmanipulated fire ant levels. Additionally, nestlings from treated territories were in better condition than those from control territories, though these differences were largely confined to early development. The elimination of significant differences in body condition towards the end of the nestling period suggests that bluebird parents in control territories were able to make up the food deficit caused by fire ants, potentially by working harder to adequately provision their offspring. The relationship between fire ant abundance and bluebird behavior hints at the complexity of ecological communities and suggests negative effects of invasive species are not limited to taxa with which they have direct contact.
doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.2012.02076.x
PMCID: PMC3404743  PMID: 22844172
Invasive species; resource competition; parental care; Sialia sialis; Solenopsis invicta
3.  Vector–Host Interactions in Avian Nests: Do Mosquitoes Prefer Nestlings over Adults? 
The hypothesis that nestlings are a significant driver of arbovirus transmission and amplification is based upon findings that suggest nestlings are highly susceptible to being fed upon by vector mosquitoes and to viral infection and replication. Several previous studies have suggested that nestlings are preferentially fed upon relative to adults in the nest, and other studies have reported a preference for adults over nestlings. We directly tested the feeding preference of nestling and adult birds in a natural setting, introducing mosquitoes into nesting boxes containing eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis), collecting blood-fed mosquitoes, and matching the source of mosquito blood meals to individual birds using microsatellite markers. Neither nestlings nor adults were fed upon to an extent significantly greater than would be predicted based upon their relative abundance in the nests, although feeding upon mothers decreased as the age of the nestlings increased.
doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2010.10-0048
PMCID: PMC2911192  PMID: 20682889
4.  Invasive Fire Ants Reduce Reproductive Success and Alter the Reproductive Strategies of a Native Vertebrate Insectivore 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22578.
Background
Introduced organisms can alter ecosystems by disrupting natural ecological relationships. For example, red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) have disrupted native arthropod communities throughout much of their introduced range. By competing for many of the same food resources as insectivorous vertebrates, fire ants also have the potential to disrupt vertebrate communities.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To explore the effects of fire ants on a native insectivorous vertebrate, we compared the reproductive success and strategies of eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) inhabiting territories with different abundances of fire ants. We also created experimental dyads of adjacent territories comprised of one territory with artificially reduced fire ant abundance (treated) and one territory that was unmanipulated (control). We found that more bluebird young fledged from treated territories than from adjacent control territories. Fire ant abundance also explained significant variation in two measures of reproductive success across the study population: number of fledglings and hatching success of second clutches. Furthermore, the likelihood of bluebird parents re-nesting in the same territory was negatively influenced by the abundance of foraging fire ants, and parents nesting in territories with experimentally reduced abundances of fire ants produced male-biased broods relative to pairs in adjacent control territories.
Conclusions/Significance
Introduced fire ants altered both the reproductive success (number of fledglings, hatching success) and strategies (decision to renest, offspring sex-ratio) of eastern bluebirds. These results illustrate the negative effects that invasive species can have on native biota, including species from taxonomically distant groups.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022578
PMCID: PMC3140521  PMID: 21799904
5.  Feeding decisions of eastern bluebirds are situationally influenced by fledgling plumage color 
Behavioral Ecology  2010;21(3):456-464.
The relative amount of resources that avian parents provide to individual offspring within a brood represents a strategy that can have large effects on reproductive success. We tested whether parental feeding decisions of eastern bluebirds Sialia sialis are influenced by offspring plumage color by presenting pairs of differently colored fledglings side by side and observing how they were provisioned by parents. After a control period, we manipulated blue plumage color so that one sibling in each trial became relatively dark and one became relatively bright. During neither the control nor the experimental periods did either parent consistently feed naturally brighter or experimentally brightened sons more than drab sons. Under specific circumstances, however, both parents directed a higher proportion of their feeding attempts to more brightly colored sons. Paternal feeding attempts to brighter offspring during both the control and experimental periods increased in relation to the brightness of these fledglings relative to their brothers. Maternal feeding decision, on the other hand, were influenced by numerous variables during control and experimental periods including the date of the trial, the difference in mass between fledglings, the feeding behavior of fathers during the trial, the relative investment by fathers during the nestling stage, and the amount of UV chroma in fledgling plumage. Taken together, these results suggest that equal provisioning of offspring is the strategy most commonly adopted by eastern bluebirds but more brightly colored offspring will be fed preferentially when resources for offspring are limited.
doi:10.1093/beheco/arq002
PMCID: PMC2854528  PMID: 22476433
color; juvenal plumage; ornaments; parent–offspring interactions; plumage; relative parental investment; Sialia sialis
6.  Host Reproductive Phenology Drives Seasonal Patterns of Host Use in Mosquitoes 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17681.
Seasonal shifts in host use by mosquitoes from birds to mammals drive the timing and intensity of annual epidemics of mosquito-borne viruses, such as West Nile virus, in North America. The biological mechanism underlying these shifts has been a matter of debate, with hypotheses falling into two camps: (1) the shift is driven by changes in host abundance, or (2) the shift is driven by seasonal changes in the foraging behavior of mosquitoes. Here we explored the idea that seasonal changes in host use by mosquitoes are driven by temporal patterns of host reproduction. We investigated the relationship between seasonal patterns of host use by mosquitoes and host reproductive phenology by examining a seven-year dataset of blood meal identifications from a site in Tuskegee National Forest, Alabama USA and data on reproduction from the most commonly utilized endothermic (white-tailed deer, great blue heron, yellow-crowned night heron) and ectothermic (frogs) hosts. Our analysis revealed that feeding on each host peaked during periods of reproductive activity. Specifically, mosquitoes utilized herons in the spring and early summer, during periods of peak nest occupancy, whereas deer were fed upon most during the late summer and fall, the period corresponding to the peak in births for deer. For frogs, however, feeding on early- and late-season breeders paralleled peaks in male vocalization. We demonstrate for the first time that seasonal patterns of host use by mosquitoes track the reproductive phenology of the hosts. Peaks in relative mosquito feeding on each host during reproductive phases are likely the result of increased tolerance and decreased vigilance to attacking mosquitoes by nestlings and brooding adults (avian hosts), quiescent young (avian and mammalian hosts), and mate-seeking males (frogs).
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017681
PMCID: PMC3049777  PMID: 21408172
7.  Sex-biased parental investment is correlated with mate ornamentation in eastern bluebirds 
Animal behaviour  2010;79(3):727-734.
Males typically have greater variance in reproductive success than females, so mothers should benefit by producing sons under favorable conditions. Being paired with a better-than-average mate is one such favorable circumstance. High-quality fathers can improve conditions for their offspring by providing good genes, good resources, or both, so females paired to such males should invest preferentially in sons. Ornamentation has been linked to male quality in many birds and, in support of differential allocation theory, females of several avian species invest more in entire broods when paired to attractive mates. Additionally, the females of some bird species apparently manipulate the primary sex-ratio of their broods in relation to the attractiveness of their mates. However, empirical support for a link between mate ornamentation and preferential feeding of sons (another form of biased investment) is lacking. We tested for correlations between sex-biased parental investment and mate plumage colour in the eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis), a species in which juveniles have sexually dichromatic UV-blue plumage. We found that the proportion of maternal feeding attempts to fledgling sons (versus fledgling daughters) was positively correlated with structurally coloured plumage ornamentation of fathers. Additionally, paternal feeding attempts to sons were correlated with plumage ornamentation of mothers and increased in fathers exhibiting breast plumage characteristics typical of older males. These results provide further support for the idea that parental strategies are influenced by mate attractiveness and provide the first evidence that mate ornamentation can influence parental behavior even after offspring have left the nest.
doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2009.12.028
PMCID: PMC2876345  PMID: 20514141
sex-ratio; parental behavior; resource allocation; ornaments; eastern bluebird; Sialia sialis; honest signal; plumage; colour
8.  Do adult eastern bluebird Sialia sialis males recognize juvenile-specific traits? 
Animal behaviour  2009;77(5):1267-1272.
Juveniles of many avian species possess spotted or mottled plumage that is distinct from the plumage of adults. Such plumage has typically been assumed to aid in camouflaging vulnerable immature birds. Here, we propose that spotty plumage signals juvenile status, thereby decreasing aggression from territorial adults. We tested this hypothesis by measuring the aggressive responses of adult eastern bluebird males to different combinations of simultaneously presented taxidermic mounts. We found that territorial males attacked adult models significantly more than juvenile models, and that they attacked adult models with orange breasts (typical of adults) more frequently than they attacked adult models with spotty breasts (typical of juveniles). We found no difference in attack rates when models with white breasts (a novel trait) were presented with models possessing spotty breasts. These observations indicate that breast colour is a cue used by territorial adults when identifying conspecific intruders, but that adults do not recognize juvenile-specific plumage as such. Adults respond aggressively only to orange-breasted intruders.
doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2009.01.031
PMCID: PMC2703501  PMID: 20161226
Aggression; Eastern Bluebird; Juvenal Plumage; Honest Signals; Sialia sialis; Territoriality; Juveniles

Results 1-8 (8)