- Sex-specific consequences of an induced immune response on reproduction in a moth
- BMC Evolutionary Biology
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- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Immune response induction benefits insects in combatting infection by pathogens. However, organisms have a limited amount of resources available and face the dilemma of partitioning resources between immunity and other life-history traits. Since males and females differ in their life histories, sex-specific resource investment strategies to achieve an optimal immune response following an infection can be expected. We investigated immune response induction of females and males of Heliothis virescens in response to the entomopathogenic bacterium Serratia entomophila, and its effects on mating success and the female sexual signal.
We found that females had higher expression levels of immune-related genes after bacterial challenge than males. However, males maintained a higher baseline expression of immune-related genes than females. The increased investment in immunity of female moths was negatively correlated with mating success and the female sexual signal. Male mating success was unaffected by bacterial challenge.
Our results show that the sexes differed in their investment strategies: females invested in immune defense after a bacterial challenge, indicating facultative immune deployment, whereas males had higher baseline immunity than females, indicating immune maintenance. Interestingly, these differences in investment were reflected in the mate choice assays. As female moths are the sexual signallers, females need to invest resources in their attractiveness. However, female moths appeared to invest in immunity at the cost of reproductive effort.
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