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Vertebrate mothers transfer diverse compounds to developing embryos that can affect their development and final phenotype (i.e. maternal effects). However, the way such effects modulate offspring phenotype, in particular their immunity remains unclear. To test the impact of maternal effects on offspring development we treated with Newcastle disease virus (NDV) vaccine wild breeding house sparrow (Passer domesticus) females in Sevilla, SE Spain. Female parents were vaccinated when caring first broods, and their offspring from their following brood were evaluated for their immune response to the same vaccine and to the PHA inflammatory test. Vaccinated chicks from vaccinated mothers developed a stronger specific response that was related to maternal NDV antibody concentration. Chick’s carotenoid concentration and total antioxidant capacity in blood were negatively related to NDV antibody concentration, whereas no relation with PHA response was found. Specific NDV antibodies could not be detected on 10 day old control chicks from vaccinated mothers, implying that maternally transmitted antibodies promote offspring specific immunity through a priming effect, while other immunity components remain unaffected. Maternally transmitted antibodies are short-lived, depend on maternal circulation levels and may be adaptive when chicks are frequently exposed to the same pathogens as their mothers.
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