ABSTRACT

Noting lipidomic changes following the parasitism of migrating birds, the metabolic needs of which are primarily fueled by lipids, can deepen our understanding of host–parasite interactions. We identified lipids of migrating Northern saw-whet owls (Aegolius acadicus) using collision-induced dissociation mass spectrometry, compared the lipidomic signatures of hemoparasite-infected and noninfected individuals, and performed cross-validation analyses to reveal associations between parasite infection and lipid levels. We found significantly lower levels of lipid classes phosphatidic acid (PA), phosphatidylglycerol (PG), phosphatidylinositol (PI), phosphatidylserine (PS), phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), phosphatidylcholine (PC), and sphingomyelin (SM) in infected Northern saw-whet owls than in the noninfected individuals. Conversely, we found higher levels for certain lysoPS and lysoPE species, and variable lipid level changes for free fatty acid (FFA) species. Reporting lipidomic changes observed between hemosporidian-infected and noninfected Northern saw-whet owls can strengthen our understanding of the mechanisms governing parasite proliferation in this species. Furthermore, our analysis indicated that lipidomic signatures are better predictors of parasite infection than the log-adjusted mass/wing chord body index, a metric commonly used to assess the influence of hemosporidia infection on the health of birds. Establishing a lipidomic profile for Northern saw-whet owls that provides baseline lipid levels during fall migration may assist future studies assessing causes of reductions in breeding brought about from subtle differences in behaviors such as delayed migration.

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