Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway. firstname.lastname@example.org
We investigated the effects of ecological context (by comparing data from two consecutive years) and experimentally manipulated nestling developmental conditions (large vs. small brood size) on immune function (immunoglobulin Y [IgY]) and oxidative stress in nestling European starlings Sturnus vulgaris. On the basis of annual differences in chicks' morphological traits and body masses close to fledging, we established that 2007 was a relative low-quality year and 2008 was a relatively high-quality year. Total antioxidant capacity (TAC) was significantly lower in experimentally enlarged broods, but only in the low-quality year (2007). Total oxidant status (TOS) was independent of brood size in both years but was 45% higher in the low-quality year. Consequently, plasma oxidative status (the ratio between TOS and TAC) was higher in 2007. In contrast, plasma IgY levels were higher in the experimentally enlarged broods and in the high-quality year (2008). Thus, immune function and oxidative stress showed inverse relationships with developmental conditions and annual variation in year quality. Finally, TOS and TAC were positively correlated, but only in the low-quality year (2007), and there was no relationship observed between IgY and markers of oxidative stress. Our results demonstrate the importance of taking into account year effects or ecological context when assessing environmental effects on physiological mechanisms underlying the life-history traits of chicks, such as oxidative stress.