Androgens and Immune Function in Male Alternative Reproductive Morphotypes of the Peacock Blenny Salaria pavo

Authors

  • Albert F. H. Ros,

    1.  Unidade de Investigação em Eco-Etologia, Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa, Portugal
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Rui F. Oliveira

    1.  Unidade de Investigação em Eco-Etologia, Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa, Portugal
    2.  Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal
    Search for more papers by this author

Albert F. H. Ros, Unidade de Investigação em Eco-Etologia, Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Rua Jardim do Tabaco 34, 1149-041 Lisboa, Portugal. E-mail: afhros@gmail.com

Abstract

Species with alternative reproductive tactics offer the opportunity to analyse how behavioural and morphological traits are tuned to produce successfully competing phenotypes within one sex. In the teleost fish Salaria pavo, alternative reproductive tactics are sequential. The older ornamented males compete for access to females by guarding a cavity to which they attract females to spawn. Ornamented males that are found without a nest are called ‘floaters’. Younger mature males which are too small to compete with nest-holders attempt to ‘sneak’ as female mimics into successful nests and release their sperm to fertilize freshly spawned eggs. The alternative tactics in S. pavo are associated with different levels of the androgens testosterone and 11-ketotestosterone, which have been found to suppress immune function in several teleost fish. A field study was carried out to analyse the relationship between these reproductive tactics, androgens and blood levels of lymphocytes as a monitoring method of immune function. We expected highest investment in the immune system in sneakers because these have the lowest androgen levels and functionally because investing in self-maintenance increases their future prospect to switch tactic and to reproduce as a nest-holder. Indeed, the relative count of lymphocytes correlated negatively with body size and thus was highest in sneakers and lowest in nest-holders. In concordance, 11-ketotestosterone and testosterone levels were found to be higher in floaters and nest-holders than in sneakers. However, no correlation was found between individual levels of testosterone or 11-ketotestosterone and lymphocytes. Thus, a trade-off between reproductive traits associated with high androgen levels and immunocompetence might exist at the level of alternative tactics but this might not be explained by acute immunosuppressive effects of circulating androgens.

Ancillary