Trade-offs between personal immunity and reproduction in the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides

Catherine E. Reavey*, Neil D. Warnock, Heiko Vogel, Sheena C. Cotter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

How are resources split between caring for offspring and self-maintenance? Is the timing of immune challenge important? In burying beetles challenging the immune system prior to breeding does not affect the total number and quality of offspring produced during the individual's lifetime. However, the immune system is suppressed during breeding and if an immune challenge is presented during this time the beetle will upregulate its immune system, but at the detriment to the number of offspring produced during that breeding opportunity.We know that parental investment and immune investment are costly processes, but it is unclear which trait will be prioritized when both may be required. Here, we address this question using the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, carrion breeders that exhibit biparental care of young. Our results show that immunosuppression occurs during provision of parental care. We measured phenoloxidase (PO) on Days 1-8 of the breeding bout and results show a clear decrease in PO immediately from presentation of the breeding resource onward. Having established baseline immune investment during breeding we then manipulated immune investment at different times by applying a wounding challenge. Beetles were wounded prior to and during the parental care period and reproductive investment quantified. Different effects on reproductive output occur depending on the timing of wounding. Challenging the immune system with wounding prior to breeding does not affect reproductive output and subsequent lifetime reproductive success (LRS). LRS is also unaffected by applying an immune elicitor prior to breeding, though different arms of the immune system are up/downregulated, perhaps indicating a trade-off between cellular and humoral immunity. In contrast, wounding during breeding reduces reproductive output and to the greatest extent if the challenge is applied early in the breeding bout. Despite being immunosuppressed, breeding beetles can still respond to wounding by increasing PO, albeit not to prebreeding levels. This upregulation of PO during breeding may affect parental investment, resulting in a reduction in reproductive output. The potential role of juvenile hormone in controlling this trade-off is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-423
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Ecology
Volume25
Issue number2
Early online date27 Jan 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Keywords

  • ecological immunology
  • immunity
  • insect
  • juvenile hormone
  • Nicrophorus
  • parental care
  • phenoloxidase
  • reproduction
  • trade-off
  • wounding
  • JUVENILE-HORMONE
  • BROOD SIZE
  • ECOLOGICAL IMMUNOLOGY
  • DROSOPHILA-MELANOGASTER
  • ANTIMICROBIAL ACTIVITY
  • EVOLUTIONARY ECOLOGY
  • BUMBLEBEE WORKERS
  • SOCIAL IMMUNITY
  • INNATE IMMUNITY
  • PROTEIN COSTS

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