Density-dependent prophylaxis and condition-dependent immune function in Lepidopteran larvae: a multivariate approach

Cotter, S. C., Hails, R. S., Cory, J. S. and Wilson, K. (2004) Density-dependent prophylaxis and condition-dependent immune function in Lepidopteran larvae: a multivariate approach. Journal of Animal Ecology, 73 (2). pp. 283-293. ISSN 0021-8790

Full content URL:

3. Cotter et al 2004 JAE.pdf

Request a copy
[img] PDF
3. Cotter et al 2004 JAE.pdf - Whole Document
Restricted to Repository staff only

Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive


1. The risk of parasitism and infectious disease is expected to increase with population density as a consequence of positive density-dependent transmission rates. Therefore, species that encounter large fluctuations in population density are predicted to exhibit plasticity in their immune system, such that investment in costly immune defences is adjusted to match the probability of exposure to parasites and pathogens (i.e. density dependent prophylaxis).
2. Despite growing evidence that insects in high-density populations show the predicted increase in resistance to certain pathogens, few studies have examined the underlying alteration in immune function. As many of these species show increased cuticular melanism at high densities, the aim of this study was to use a multivariate approach to quantify relative variation in the allocation of resources to immunity associated with both rearing density (solitary vs. crowded) and cuticular colour (pale vs. dark) in a phase-polyphenic Lepidopteran species (Spodoptera littoralis Boisduval).
3. Relative to pale individuals, dark larvae (the high-density phenotype) exhibited higher haemolymph and cuticular phenoloxidase (PO) activity and a stronger melanotic encapsulation response to an artificial parasite inserted into the haemocoel. However, they also exhibited lower antibacterial (lysozyme-like) activity than pale larvae. Larval density per se had little effect on most of the immune parameters measured, though capsule melanization and antibacterial activity were significantly higher in solitary-reared
than crowded larvae.
4. Correcting for variation in larval body condition, as estimated by weight and haemolymph protein levels, had little effect on these results, suggesting that variation in immune function across treatment groups cannot be explained by condition-dependence. These results are examined in relation to pathogen resistance, and the possibility of a trade-off within the immune system is discussed.

Keywords:condition-dependence, density-dependent prophylaxis, melanism, parasite resistance, trade-offs
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C550 Immunology
C Biological Sciences > C360 Pest Science
C Biological Sciences > C111 Parasitology
C Biological Sciences > C182 Evolution
C Biological Sciences > C150 Environmental Biology
C Biological Sciences > C340 Entomology
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
ID Code:15960
Deposited On:08 Nov 2014 20:35

Repository Staff Only: item control page