Immune expression in a damselfly is related to time of season, not to fluctuating asymmetry or host size

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1. Variation in immune responsiveness within and among species is the subject of the emerging field of ecological immunology. The work reported here showed that individuals of Lestes forcipatus Rambur differ in their likelihood of mounting immune responses, and in the magnitude of those responses, against a generalist ectoparasite, the water mite Arrenurus planus Marshall. 2. Immune responses took the form of melanotic encapsulation of mite feeding tubes, occurred in the few days after host emergence, and resulted in mites dying without engorging. Such immune responses were more probable and stronger for hosts sampled later rather than earlier in the season. Such responses may act as selection affecting seasonal patterns of egg hatching and larval abundance of mites. 3. Contrary to expectation, metrics of host size (wing length) and wing cell fluctuating asymmetry were not related to the likelihood of immune responses. 4. The importance of season on immune expression of insects has not been explored in detail. These results suggest possible trade-offs in allocation of melanin (or its precursors) to maturation versus immunity, and indicate the need for studies on the synergistic effects of weather and parasitism on host species that use melanotic encapsulation to combat parasites and pathogens.

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Ecological Entomology

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