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Keywords:

  • carotenoids;
  • Macrocyclops albidus;
  • multiple enemies;
  • parasite infection;
  • predation;
  • Schistocephalus solidus

Abstract

Carotenoid reserves in copepods seem costly in terms of predation risk because they make individuals conspicuous. However, carotenoids also seem to play an important role in immune defence as free radical scavengers. To test whether predation risk influences carotenoid levels and whether changes in carotenoid levels are related to changes in immune defence, I examined individual changes in large carotenoid and other lipid droplets upon exposure to predation risk and subsequent exposure to parasites in the copepod Macrocyclops albidus. Copepods reduced carotenoid reserves upon exposure to predators, through which they potentially avoided the costs of being conspicuous under predation risk. Thus, the size of carotenoid reserves is a plastic trait. Such a decrease in carotenoid reserves may also have a negative impact on the copepods’ immune system as individuals that decreased their reserves suffered higher parasite prevalence upon exposure to the cestode Schistocephalus solidus. These results suggest that carotenoid reserves may be individually optimized to trade-off each individual's unique costs (predation risk) and benefits (immune defence) of having these reserves.