Date of Award

Summer 8-16-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Teresa Maness


To maximize parental fitness, life history theory predicts that short-lived species will prioritize reproductive efforts over self-maintenance functions. The opposite is predicted for long-lived species, which ought to invest heavily in immune defenses, particularly those of the acquired immune system. Yet, most of our current understanding of immune system function has been from investigations of short-lived model species. Little is known about the induction and maintenance of immunological memory in wild species, and in particular, long-lived, wild species. This is due in part to limited availability of species-specific secondary antibodies for use in serological studies of non-model species. Moreover, commercially available ELISA kits designed for use with these secondary antibodies are expensive and limit sample size. This study presents a method to quantify antigen-specific IgY in the Nazca Booby (Sula granti), a long-lived seabird found on the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. To identify antigen-specific IgY, blood samples were collected before and after birds were injected with keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), a harmless molecule known to stimulate a specific immune response in vertebrates. Using an indirect ELISA, secondary antibodies produced against avian IgY were tested for cross-reaction with Nazca Booby anti-KLH IgY. Specific antibodies produced to KLH were quantifiable with the use of Bethyl Laboratories® anti-bird IgY as well as SigmaAldrich® anti-chicken IgY. Additionally, an indirect ELISA protocol was developed at a fraction of the cost of commercially available kits. Development of this method will expand our understanding of immune function by allowing investigation of the induction and maintenance of immune memory.