Quantitative genetics of immune function and body size in the house cricket, Acheta domesticus


Jonathan Ryder, Department of Biology, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland. Tel.: +353 1 628 5222 (ext. 3136); fax: +353 1 708 3845; e-mail: jonryder_ie@yahoo.com


Female house crickets are attracted to male calling song containing a relatively high number of syllables per ‘chirp’, which tends to be produced by large males. In a previous study, we showed that this song characteristic is also positively and independently correlated with haemocyte load, an important determinant of the ability to produce an encapsulation response in insects. Females will therefore tend to select males with high encapsulation ability (and large body size) as mates. The present study demonstrates that variation in haemocyte load and body size, together with a second parameter of immune function (the ability to encapsulate a synthetic substrate), is heritable in the same population. Moreover, all three traits are shown to be positively genetically correlated. In favouring males that produce calling song with the preferred characteristics, females should therefore also tend to produce larger offspring with a greater ability to produce an encapsulation response.