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Fecal sacs attract insects to the nest and provoke an activation of the immune system of nestlings

Overview of attention for article published in Frontiers in Zoology, January 2016
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  • In the top 25% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (90th percentile)

Mentioned by

1 news outlet
14 tweeters
1 Facebook page


17 Dimensions

Readers on

42 Mendeley
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Fecal sacs attract insects to the nest and provoke an activation of the immune system of nestlings
Published in
Frontiers in Zoology, January 2016
DOI 10.1186/s12983-016-0135-3
Pubmed ID

Juan Diego Ibáñez-Álamo, Francisco Ruiz-Raya, Laura Rodríguez, Manuel Soler


Nest sanitation is a widespread but rarely studied behavior in birds. The most common form of nest sanitation behavior, the removal of nestling feces, has focused the discussion about which selective pressures determine this behavior. The parasitism hypothesis, which states that nestling fecal sacs attract parasites that negatively affect breeding birds, was proposed 40 years ago and is frequently cited as a demonstrated fact. But, to our knowledge, there is no previous experimental test of this hypothesis. We carried out three different experiments to investigate the parasitism hypothesis. First, we used commercial McPhail traps to test for the potential attraction effect of nestling feces alone on flying insects. We found that traps with fecal sacs attracted significantly more flies (Order Diptera), but not ectoparasites, than the two control situations. Second, we used artificial blackbird (Turdus merula) nests to investigate the combined attraction effect of feces and nest materials on arthropods (not only flying insects). Flies, again, were the only group of arthropods significantly attracted by fecal sacs. We did not detect an effect on ectoparasites. Third, we used active blackbird nests to investigate the potential effect of nestling feces in ecto- and endoparasite loads in real nestlings. The presence of fecal sacs near blackbird nestlings did not increase the number of louse flies or chewing lice, and unexpectedly reduced the number of nests infested with mites. The endoparasite prevalence was also not affected. In contrast, feces provoked an activation of the immune system as the H/L ratio of nestlings living near excrements was significantly higher than those kept under the two control treatments. Surprisingly, our findings do not support the parasitism hypothesis, which suggests that parasites are not the main reason for fecal sac removal. In contrast, the attraction of flies to nestling feces, the elevation of the immune response of chicks, and the recently described antimicrobial function of the mucous covering of fecal sacs suggest that microorganisms could be responsible of this important form of parental care behavior (microbial hypothesis).

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 14 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 42 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Unknown 42 100%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Master 9 21%
Researcher 6 14%
Student > Bachelor 5 12%
Student > Ph. D. Student 5 12%
Student > Doctoral Student 4 10%
Other 10 24%
Unknown 3 7%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 23 55%
Environmental Science 4 10%
Nursing and Health Professions 2 5%
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology 2 5%
Neuroscience 2 5%
Other 4 10%
Unknown 5 12%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 17. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 29 July 2022.
All research outputs
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Outputs from Frontiers in Zoology
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Outputs of similar age
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Outputs of similar age from Frontiers in Zoology
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Altmetric has tracked 21,740,538 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 91st percentile: it's in the top 10% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 638 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 20.8. This one has done well, scoring higher than 81% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 375,042 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 90% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 3 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has scored higher than all of them