Evol Ecol Res 6: 1051-1062 (2004)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Plasticity of immune function and condition under the risk of predation and parasitism

Gerrit Joop1,2 and Jens Rolff 2*

1AG Ökologie, Zoologisches Institut, Technische Universität Braunschweig, D-38092 Braunschweig, Germany and  2Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: jor@sheffield.ac.uk


Ecological immunology attempts to elucidate the causes of the large variation in immunity and resistance observed in natural populations. Here we report on a novel experiment that investigated how the risks of parasitism and predation altered investment in immunity and condition in insects during larval development. The study organism is the damselfly Coenagrion puella, the parasite is a water mite and the predators are encaged Aeshna cyanea dragonflies. Our experiments show that females increase their investment in a cellular as well as a humoral component of the immune system in the presence of natural enemies. By contrast, males do not show such alteration. However, males show altered condition under the risks of parasitism and predation. Our results highlight the importance of species interactions for the plasticity of immune function.

Keywords: dragonflies, ecological immunology, differences between the sexes, natural enemies, plasticity, water mites.

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