Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Population density mediates induced immune response, but not physiological condition in a well-adapted urban bird.

Abstract

Thriving under high population density is considered a major feature of urban exploiter species. Nevertheless, population density appears to be a surprisingly overlooked factor in urban ecology studies. High population numbers observed in urban species might promote pathogen transmission and negatively affect health or condition, thus requiring investments in immunocompetence. The feral pigeon Columba livia domestica is an example of a successful city-dweller, found in great abundance in large cities across the globe. We investigated the effects of population density on induced immune response (phytohaemagglutinin skin test) and body condition (blood haemoglobin concentration and size-corrected body mass) in 120 feral pigeons, captured along population density gradient in Łódź (central Poland). We found that stronger immune response was associated with higher population density, but was not related to physiological condition and physiological stress (heterophil/lymphocyte ratio). Moreover, condition indices were not associated with population density. However, since pigeon population density was highly correlated with the level of habitat urbanization, we cannot exclude that any density-dependent effects may be mediated by habitat variation. Our results indicate that urban environment, via population density, might exert different selective pressures on immunocompetence and body condition in this successful urban exploiter.