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Keywords:

  • brood size manipulation;
  • fledging success;
  • immune response;
  • local recruitment;
  • selection

Abstract

We investigated whether the variation in T-cell-mediated immune function of blue tit nestlings affected their fledgling success and the probability of local survival. We studied the relationship between immune function and survival under two rearing conditions: control, unmanipulated, and experimentally enlarged broods. Brood enlargement had negative effects on nestling immune response. Immune response was positively related to fledgling success and it predicted the probability of local recruitment. However, the relationship between immune response and the probability of recruitment was significantly positive only among control broods and nonsignificant among enlarged broods. The effect of immune response on the recruitment probability was not affected by variation in body mass. Our study suggests that selection for immune responsiveness seems to be weak or even absent under unfavourable rearing conditions as simulated by brood size enlargement. Therefore, year-to-year environmental variation and environmental heterogeneity may constrain evolution towards higher immune responsiveness.