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Avian life history traits influence eggshell bacterial loads: a comparative analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

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  • Juan Manuel Peralta-Sanchez
  • Manuel Martin-Vivaldi
  • Antonio Manuel Martin-Platero
  • Manuel Martinez-Bueno
  • Marta Onate Gutierrez
  • Magdalena Ruiz-Rodriguez
  • Juan Jose Soler
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/2012
<mark>Journal</mark>Ibis
Issue number4
Volume154
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)725-737
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Selection pressures due to parasitism play an important role in driving the evolution of life history traits of birds in general and of behaviour at the nest in particular. Eggshell bacterial load has been shown to predict hatching failure (i.e. the probability of embryo infection) but the relationships between the bacterial environment of the nest and life history characteristics of birds remain poorly investigated. We explored interspecific variation in eggshell bacterial load of mesophilic bacteria, Enterococcus spp., Staphylococcus spp. and Enterobacteriaceae groups across 24 bird species and assessed whether bacterial load is associated with breeding traits. Interspecific variation was much higher than intra-specific variation for all measures of bacterial load even after controlling for annual variation. Thus, we were able to assess the correlation between bacterial community characteristics and life history traits. After correcting for phylogenetic effects, we found that nest type, the use of feathers or plants as lining material, and incubation behaviour explained a significant proportion of the variance in bacterial communities on eggshells. The strength of these associations depended on study year, suggesting an important role of environmental conditions for eggshell bacterial load or community. Overall, these results suggest that bacteria on eggshells are associated with bird species traits, probably because birds are mediating the deleterious effect of eggshell microbes through behavioural traits that modify bacterial load.