Parasites and diseases constitute major evolutionary forces in many natural populations, and thus having an efficient immune defense to resist infections is crucial for many organisms. Properties of the immune response may also influence mate choice decisions in many animals. Theory predicts several advantages for females when choosing males with superior immune systems. These benefits can be both direct (e.g. increased paternal care and reduced disease transmission) and indirect (good genes). We have investigated female choice with respect to antibody response to two novel antigens in males of a lekking bird, the great snipe (Gallinago media). Because of the lek mating system, female choice probably mainly incurs indirect (genetic) rather than direct benefits. Males responded to vaccination with diphtheria and tetanus toxoids by producing specific antibodies to both antigens. Triggering the immune system had no negative impact on display activities or survival. Males that were chosen by females as mates had on average higher antibody response to the tetanus antigen than their neighbors. We did not, however, find any covariance between the strength of the antibody response and male mating success.
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Biological Sciences