Marine Biology

, 166:151 | Cite as

Differential immunity as a factor influencing mussel hybrid zone structure

  • Deryk Tolman
  • Hannah L. Wood
  • David O. F. Skibinski
  • Manuela TruebanoEmail author
Original Paper


Interspecific hybridisation can alter fitness-related traits, including the response to pathogens, yet immunity is rarely investigated as a potential driver of hybrid zone dynamics, particularly in invertebrates. We investigated the immune response of mussels from a sympatric population at Croyde Bay, within the hybrid zone of Mytilus edulis and Mytilus galloprovincialis in Southwest England. The site is characterised by size-dependent variation in genotype frequencies, with a higher frequency of M. galloprovincialis alleles in large mussels, largely attributed to selective mortality in favour of the M. galloprovincialis genotype. To determine if differences in immune response may contribute to this size-dependent variation in genotype frequencies, we assessed the two pure species and their hybrids in their phagocytic abilities when subject to immune challenge as a measure of immunocompetence and measured the metabolic cost of mounting an antigen-stimulated immune response. Mussels identified as M. galloprovincialis had a greater immunocompetence response at a lower metabolic cost compared to mussels identified as M. edulis. Mussels identified as hybrids had intermediate values for both parameters, providing no evidence for heterosis but suggesting that increased susceptibility compared to M. galloprovincialis may be attributed to the M. edulis genotype. The results indicate phenotypic differences in the face of pathogenic infection, which may be a contributing factor to the differential mortality in favour of M. galloprovincialis, and the size-dependent variation in genotype frequencies associated with this contact zone. We propose that immunity may contribute to European mussel hybrid zone dynamics.



The authors thank Dr Jo Triner for her technical assistance and Dr Luke Holmes for providing graphical outputs. Work was funded by the School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for sampling, care and experimental use of organisms for the study have been followed. The authors declare no conflict of interest. The datasets during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine Biology and Ecology Research CentreUniversity of PlymouthPlymouthUK
  2. 2.Natural EnglandWorcesterUK
  3. 3.Institute of Life ScienceSwansea University Medical SchoolSwanseaUK

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