, Volume 100, Issue 12, pp 1149-1161
Date: 05 Dec 2013

Geographical variation in parasitism shapes larval immune function in a phytophagous insect

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Two of the central goals of immunoecology are to understand natural variation in the immune system among populations and to identify those selection pressures that shape immune traits. Maintenance of the immune system can be costly, and both food quality and parasitism selection pressure are factors potentially driving immunocompetence. In tritrophic interactions involving phytophagous insects, host plants, and natural enemies, the immunocompetence of phytophagous insects is constrained by selective forces from both the host plants and the natural enemies. Here, we assessed the roles of host plants and natural enemies as selective pressures on immune variation among natural populations of Lobesia botrana. Our results showed marked geographical variation in immune defenses and parasitism among different natural populations. Larval immune functions were dependent of the host plant quality and were positively correlated to parasitism, suggesting that parasitoids select for greater investment into immunity in moth. Furthermore, investment in immune defense was negatively correlated with body size, suggesting that it is metabolically expensive. The findings emphasize the roles of host plants and parasitoids as selective forces shaping host immune functions in natural conditions. We argue that kinds of study are central to understanding natural variations in immune functions, and the selective forces beyond.