Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Biology

Degree Level



Biological Sciences


DuRant, Sarah

Committee Member/Reader

Willson, J.D.

Committee Member/Second Reader

Joffe Minor, Tacy

Committee Member/Third Reader

Warren, Ron


Disease within a population has the ability to shape the development, evolution, and general performance of a species. Pathogen exposure to hosts can influence their physiology and behavioral patterns to further shape offspring immunity. Parental conditions experienced by offspring during early development can benefit survival and fitness (e.g. increasing provisioning rates), as well as help deter against similar diseases experienced by parents. By testing if parental behavior changes can better prepare offspring outcomes for disease exposure, such as disease severity or duration of infection, we can see the beneficial impacts it has on disease dynamics and host-pathogen processes. Incubation temperature, resource provisioning, and brooding time are parental behaviors that play an important role in improving offspring body condition. Here, I used a common avian host-pathogen system to test the hypothesis that prior pathogen exposure alters parental behaviors such as nest provisioning and brooding lengths in the domestic canary, affecting offspring outcomes to shape population-level disease dynamics. Female domestic canaries (Serinus canaria domestica) were infected experimentally with Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis (MG) then paired for breeding after recovery. Post laying, eggs were given to foster mothers in a 2x2 design: biological mother disease history (prior MG or sham exposure) by foster mother disease history (prior MG or sham exposure). Following offspring fledging, I examined video footage of exposed and unexposed foster mothers during chick rearing, recording number of trips to the nest, brooding events, feeding events and the amount of time spent on the nest. This study revealed that MG exposed foster mothers took fewer trips to the nest overall and, specifically, fewer feeding trips than control mothers. However, MG exposed foster mothers spent more time brooding nestlings than control mothers, suggesting that their offspring will be better equipped to handle disease relative to offspring of control mothers because lower amounts of brooding during offspring development can cause increased susceptibility to infection. While we found no effect of treatment on offspring body condition, there may be other offspring outcomes that have more importance for disease risk. Examining prior disease exposure on maternal behaviors can help us to better understand the value of transgenerational effects in conservation studies.


Behavior, resource provisioning, maternal effects, Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG)