Physiological proteins in resource-limited herbivores experiencing a population die-off

R. Garnier, A. I. Bento, C. Hansen, J. G. Pilkington, J. M. Pemberton, Andrea Linn Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Nutrient availability is predicted to interact with herbivore population densities. Competition for low quality food at high density may reduce summer food intake, and in turn winter survival. Conversely, low population density may favor physiological recovery through better access to better quality spring forage. Here, we take advantage of the long-term study of the Soay sheep population of St. Kilda (Scotland) to measure plasma protein markers and immunity in two consecutive summers with contrasting population densities. We show that, following a winter die-off resulting in a shift to low population density, albumin and total proteins increased, but only in adult sheep. The effect was not solely attributable to selective disappearance of malnourished sheep. Similarly, the concentration of antibodies was higher following the die-off, potentially indicating recovery of immune function. Overall, our results are consistent with the physiological recovery of surviving individuals after a harsh winter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68
Number of pages1
JournalDie Naturwissenschaften
Volume104
Issue number7-8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Keywords

  • Disease ecology
  • Nutritional ecology
  • Ovis aries
  • Soay sheep

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