Ontogenetic changes in innate immune function in captive and wild subspecies of prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus cupido spp.)


  • Associate Editor: Christopher Williams


The Attwater's prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri), a federally endangered grouse species, is currently experiencing high chick mortality in wild populations and the causes are unknown. We tested 3 indicators of innate immunity (hemaggluttination, serum lysozyme, and total immunoglobulin [IgY] levels) in the Attwater's prairie-chicken and a closely related sub-species, the greater prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus). Agglutination titers were approximately 25% higher in the juvenile and adult Attwater's prairie-chickens compared to equivalently aged greater prairie-chickens. Additionally, total IgY levels in wild-collected Attwater's prairie-chicken egg samples were 34% higher than IgY levels in captive greater prairie-chickens or Attwater's prairie-chicken eggs. These results suggest that differences in innate immune function exist between these sub-species and also among Attwater's prairie-chicken subpopulations that are exposed to different environmental conditions. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.