News #20

Our manuscript on the in vivo effect of preen gland on feather-degrading and other cultivable bacteria loads was accepted for publication in Naturwissenschaften. Authors marked with boldface are supported by a CNCSIS grant (PN II. RU TE 291/2010).

Czirják GÁ, Pap PL, Vágási CI, Giraudeau M, Mureşan C, Mirleau P and Heeb P 2013. Preen gland removal increases plumage bacterial load but not that of feather-degrading bacteria. Naturwissenschaften (in press).

Abstract         The preen gland is a holocrine sebaceous gland of the avian integument which produces an oily secretion that is spread on the plumage during preening. It has been suggested that birds may defend themselves against feather-degrading bacteria (FDB) and other potential pathogens using preen gland secretions. However, besides some in vitro studies, the in vivo bacterial inhibitory effects of the preen oil on the abundance of feather-associated bacterial species has not yet been studied in passerines. Here we tested the effect of gland removal on the abundance of FDB and other-cultivable bacterial loads (OCB) of male house sparrows (Passer domesticus). Our results did not support earlier results on in vitro antibacterial activity of preen oil against FDB since the absence of the preen gland did not significantly affect their loads related to the control birds. In contrast, we found that preen gland removal led to higher loads of OCB. This result suggests that the antimicrobial spectrum of the preen oil is broader than previously thought and that, by reducing the overall feather bacterial loads, the preen gland could help birds to protect themselves against a variety of potentially harmful bacteria.

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