Fitness costs associated with mounting a social immune response

Sheena Cotter, E. Topham, A.J.P. Price, R.M. Kilner

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60 Citations (Scopus)
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Social immune systems comprise immune defences mounted by individuals for the benefit of others (sensu Cotter & Kilner 2010a). 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1114-1123
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number9
Early online date08 Jun 2010
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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