We tracked the development of innate immunity in nestling Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) and compared it to that of adults using blood drawn from nestlings during days 6, 12, and 18 of the ∼20-day nestling period and from adults. Innate immunity was characterized using an in vitro assay of the ability of whole blood to kill Escherichia coli. The ability of whole blood to kill E. coli increased as nestlings matured. Neither this component of innate immunity nor right wing chord length on day18 were as developed as in adults indicating that development of the innate immune system and growth both continued after fledging. Narrow sense heritability analyses suggest that females with strong immune responses produced nestlings with strong immune responses. These data suggest nestling Tree Swallows allocated sufficient energy to support rapid growth to enable fledging by day 18, but that further development of innate immunity occurred post-fledging.
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