Greater cuticular melanism is not associated with greater immunogenic response in adults of the polymorphic mountain stone weta, Hemideina maori

Authors


*Tonia Robb, College of Natural Sciences, Biology, 209 Nesbitt Building, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, KlS 5B6, Canada. E-mail: trobb@connect.carleton.ca

Abstract

Abstract.  1. Greater immune function is associated with the high-density melanic phase of polyphenic insects, appearing to compensate for density-dependent increases in susceptibility to parasites and/or pathogens. Other types of discrete variation in cuticular colour occur in insects (which may or may not be associated with melanin pigmentation), but whether this variation is predictive of immune ability has not been investigated.

2. In the mountain stone weta Hemideina maori, a black morph and yellow banded morph occur. These morphs are not seasonally polyphenic and have discrete haplotype genetic markers. Black individuals are typically found at lower local densities than yellow individuals, contrary to relations between cuticular melanism and density seen in polyphenic insects.

3. Yellow males and females had greater melanotic encapsulation responses upon immune challenge than did black males and females, but these differences were not associated with differences in temperature selection between morphs. Morph differences in melanotic encapsulation responses were somewhat related to differences between morphs in haemocyte concentrations.

4. These results indicate that a common form of immune expression is not heightened with dark coloration in the mountain stone weta. Thus, earlier findings of greater immunity associated with darker cuticles in phase polyphenic insects cannot be extended to insects with other forms of discrete colour variation. These findings will help in elucidating causes and consequences of such colour polymorphism, which is widespread in several insect orders.

Ancillary