PRINCETON, N.J., April 21 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they are the first to show members of the same animal species respond differently with fever when fighting infection in the wild.
The Princeton University-led researchers said they used radio transmitters to record fever and sickness behaviors in song sparrows. They said their findings might help scientists predict where diseases carried by animals are most likely to take hold and forecast the spread of infections, including those, such as the West Nile virus, that can have serious effects on humans.
Fever occurs in animals when the immune system elevates body temperature to make the internal environment less hospitable to pathogens, the scientists said. Laboratory studies have shown fever responses can vary strongly, not only among species, but among individuals of the same species.
Utilizing advances in radiotelemetry, a team of ecologists led by Princeton graduate student James Adelman measured fever and sickness behavior in various populations of North American song sparrows living in the wild.
“This study represents a major step forward in our ability to study immune responses in wild animals and to increase our understanding of the causes and consequences of variation in immune function in nature,” Adelman said.
The research, which included Sergio Cordoba-Cordoba, Martin Wikelski, Michaela Hau and Kamiel Spoelstra, appears in the March 21 issue of the journal Functional Ecology.
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