, Volume 162, Issue 3, pp 541-547
Date: 15 Oct 2009

Activation of the immune system promotes insect dispersal in the wild

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Abstract

Dispersal has important ecological and evolutionary consequences but is a poorly understood behaviour. We experimentally tested whether activation of the immune system affects dispersal in male damselflies, Calopteryx virgo, from three natural populations. We show that males that contained an experimentally inserted artificial pathogen, a nylon monofilament implant, had higher dispersal rates and flew further than control males, but not further than sham manipulated males. Our data suggest that dispersal may reduce the risk of further infections if immune system activation indicates high parasite infection risk in the present habitat. We, thus, suggest that parasites may play an important role in the evolution of host dispersal.

Communicated by Carla Caceres.