The relationship between migration and the immune system
An important determinant of an individual’s ability to mount an effective immune response is pathogen recognition, in which the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) plays a key role. The number of foreign molecules that can be recognised by different MHC molecules is determined by the number and variety of MHC genes an individual possesses. Therefore, we predict that migratory birds have evolved a larger and more diverse suite of MHC genes than their sedentary counterparts. In this project we are testing this prediction by sequencing the MHC genes of a large number of sedentary birds in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa and comparing them to migratory species that visit both areas. The results of this study will advance our understanding of the relationship between migration and immune genes.