FITNESS TRADE-OFFS MEDIATED BY IMMUNOSUPPRESSION COSTS IN A SMALL MAMMAL

Authors


Abstract

Trade-offs are widespread between life-history traits, such as reproduction and survival. However, their underlying physiological and behavioral mechanisms are less clear. One proposed physiological factor involves the trade-off between investment in male reproductive effort and immunity. Based on this hypothesis, we investigated differences in fitness between artificially selected immune response bank vole groups, Myodes glareolus. Significant heritability of immune response was found and a correlated response in testosterone levels to selection on immune function. Male reproductive effort, reproductive success, and survival of first generation offspring were assessed and we demonstrate a relationship between laboratory measured immune parameters and fitness parameters in field enclosures. We identify a trade-off between reproductive effort and survival with immune response and parasites as mediators. However, this trade-off results in equal male fitness in natural conditions, potentially demonstrating different male signaling strategies for either reproductive effort or survival. Females gain indirect genetic benefits for either genetic disease resistance or male reproductive effort, but not both. Immune response is genetically variable, genetically linked to testosterone and may indirectly maintain genetic variation for sexually selected traits. Evidence for both a genetic and a field trade-off between reproductive effort and survival indicates an evolutionary constraint on fitness traits.

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