Antimicrobial activity of nest-lining feathers is enhanced by breeding activity in avian nests?

08:00 EDT 15th April 2019 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "Antimicrobial activity of nest-lining feathers is enhanced by breeding activity in avian nests?"

The use of feathers as nest material has been proposed as a kind of self-medication strategy because antimicrobial-producing microorganisms living on feathers may defend offspring against pathogenic infections. In this case, it is expected that density of antimicrobial-producing bacteria, and their antimicrobial effects, are higher in feathers that line the nests than in eggshells. Moreover, we know that feather pigmentation and breeding activity may influence density and antimicrobial production of bacteria. To test these predictions, we analyzed bacterial densities and antimicrobial activity of bacterial colonies isolated from bird eggshells and nest-lining feathers against bacterial strains comprising potential pathogens. Samples were collected from spotless starling (Sturnus unicolor) nests, and from artificial nests to isolate the effects of breeding activity on bacterial communities. The composition of feathers lining the nests was experimentally manipulated to create groups of nests with pigmented feathers, with unpigmented feathers, with both types of feathers or without feathers. Although we did not detect an effect of experimental feather treatments, we found that bacterial colonies isolated from feathers were more active against the tested bacterial strains than those isolated from eggshells. Moreover, bacterial density on feathers, keratinolytic bacteria on eggshells and antimicrobial activity of colonies isolated were higher in starling nests than in artificial nests. These results suggest that antimicrobial activity of bacteria growing on nest-lining feathers would be one of the mechanisms explaining the previously detected antimicrobial effects of this material in avian nests, and that breeding activity results in nest bacterial communities with higher antimicrobial activity.


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This article was published in the following journal.

Name: FEMS microbiology ecology
ISSN: 1574-6941


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