Fitness costs associated with mounting a social immune response

Cotter, S. C. and Topham, E. and Price, A. J. P. and Kilner, R. M. (2010) Fitness costs associated with mounting a social immune response. Ecology Letters, 13 (9). pp. 1114-1123. ISSN 1461-023X

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Abstract

Social immune systems comprise immune defences mounted by individuals for the benefit of others (sensu Cotter & Kilner 2010). Just as with other forms of immunity, mounting a social immune response is expected to be costly but so far these fitness costs are unknown. We measured the costs of social immunity in a sub-social burying beetle, a species in which two or more adults defend a carrion breeding resource for their young by smearing the flesh with antibacterial anal exudates. Our experiments on widowed females reveal that a bacterial challenge to the breeding resource upregulates the antibacterial activity of a female’s exudates, and this subsequently reduces her lifetime reproductive success. We suggest that the costliness of social immunity is a source of evolutionary conflict between breeding adults on a carcass, and that the phoretic communities that the beetles transport between carrion may assist the beetle by offsetting these costs.

Keywords:social insect, phoresy, antimicrobial, sexual conflict, cooperation, mite, ecological immunity
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C182 Evolution
C Biological Sciences > C340 Entomology
C Biological Sciences > C150 Environmental Biology
C Biological Sciences > C120 Behavioural Biology
C Biological Sciences > C180 Ecology
C Biological Sciences > C300 Zoology
C Biological Sciences > C100 Biology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:16020
Deposited On:17 Nov 2014 14:57

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