Costs of immunity are widely believed to play an important role in life history evolution, but many studies of ecological immunology have considered only single aspects of immunity. Young of altricial birds, while dependent primarily on innate immunity and maternally derived antibodies for immune defence, have to develop all components of the immune system which could generate resource-based trade-offs among different arms and between growth and immunity. We conducted a study on nestling pied flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca in which we measured levels of natural antibodies (NAbs) and hemolysis, estimated serum immunoglobulin levels and obtained a specific measure of inflammation after inoculation of an antigen, phytohaemagglutinin (PHA). Thus we obtained independent estimates to explore the relationships among different arms of the immune system. We found that no immune variable measured was associated with any other variable at the individual and brood levels. This indicates that different aspects of immunity are independent and difficult to integrate in a general measure of immune response capacity in altricial nestling birds. We found that only NAbs was negatively associated with tarsus length at the age of 7 days, but not later. Thus, the evidence for resource-based trade-offs between nestling growth and immunity is weak in our study population.
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