Alpine Swift (Apus melba) Science Article 3
1) Development plasticity is a common evolutionary and phenotypic response to poor growth condition, in particular in organisms with determinate growth such as most birds and mammals. Because various body structures can contribute differently to overall fitness, natural selection will adjust the degree of plasticity of each structure to its proportionate contribution to fitness at a given life stage. 2) Two non-mutually exclusive mechanisms can account for plasticity in the growth of offspring to compensate for the effect of parasites. First, if parasite infestation levels fluctuate over the nestling period, parasitized young may show reduced growth until peak parasite infestation, and accelerated growth once the conditions improve (the accelerated growth hypothesis). Secondly, if the period of tissue maturation is not fixed in time, hosts may grow slower than parasite-free hosts but for a longer period of time (the delayed maturation hypothesis). […].
Pierre Bize, Alexandre Roulin, Louis-Felix Bersier, Dominik Pfluger and Heinz Richner, Journal of Animal Ecology 2003 72, 633-639