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No AccessFocused Collection: Ecoimmunology

Handling Stress and Sample Storage Are Associated with Weaker Complement-Mediated Bactericidal Ability in Birds but Not Bats*

Variation in immune defense influences infectious disease dynamics within and among species. Understanding how variation in immunity drives pathogen transmission among species is especially important for animals that are reservoir hosts for zoonotic pathogens. Bats, in particular, have a propensity to host serious viral zoonoses without developing clinical disease themselves. The immunological adaptations that allow bats to host viruses without disease may be related to their adaptations for flight (e.g., in metabolism and mediation of oxidative stress). A number of analyses report greater richness of zoonotic pathogens in bats than in other taxa, such as birds (i.e., mostly volant vertebrates) and rodents (i.e., nonvolant small mammals), but immunological comparisons between bats and these other taxa are rare. To examine interspecific differences in bacterial killing ability (BKA), a functional measure of overall constitutive innate immunity, we use a phylogenetic meta-analysis to compare how BKA responds to the acute stress of capture and to storage time of frozen samples across the orders Aves and Chiroptera. After adjusting for host phylogeny, sample size, and total microbe colony-forming units, we find preliminary evidence that the constitutive innate immune defense of bats may be more resilient to handling stress and storage time than that of birds. This pattern was also similar when we analyzed the proportion of nonnegative and positive effect sizes per species, using phylogenetic comparative methods. We discuss potential physiological and evolutionary mechanisms by which complement proteins may differ between species orders and suggest future avenues for comparative field studies of immunity between sympatric bats, birds, and rodents in particular.