Interactions between social behaviour and the acute phase immune response in house finches


In social organisms, immune-mediated behavioural changes (sickness behaviours) can both influence and respond to social dynamics. We tested whether social status in house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) modulates the acute phase response or aggressive interactions with flockmates. We treated subordinate or dominant finches within captive flocks with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to stimulate an acute phase response (APR), and quantified mass loss, activity, foraging behaviours, and agonistic interactions. Subordinate finches lost more mass than dominants in response to LPS, but social status did not influence the expression of sickness behaviours (activity and foraging) upon LPS injection. LPS-injected subordinate birds experienced reduced aggression from mid-ranking but not dominant flockmates, indicating status-mediated effects of sickness behaviour on agonistic interactions. Our results suggest that social status in house finches influences one component of the APR (mass loss) and can interact with the APR to modulate intraspecific agonistic interactions in ways likely relevant for disease transmission.

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