Biological Invasions

, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 2431–2445 | Cite as

Eco-immunology of native and invasive water bugs in response to water mite parasites: insights from phenoloxidase activity

  • Vanessa CéspedesEmail author
  • Robby Stoks
  • Andy J. Green
  • Marta I. Sánchez
Original Paper


Biological invasions provide an opportunity for ecological and evolutionary exploration of immune function in host–parasite interactions. Studying parasite-induced immune response in native and invasive species can provide novel insights into mechanisms underlying invasion success. We aimed to establish the influence of mite ectoparasites on the invasion of the alien water boatman Trichocorixa verticalis (Corixidae) originating from North America. We examined the variation in a key component of insect immune function (phenoloxidase activity), and condition (fat storage) of T. verticalis and four species of native water boatmen in relation to water mites, combining field and laboratory observations in southern Spain. Mite infection was associated with a general decrease in corixid immune function (but not of fat stores), but to a varying extent in different host species. Immunosuppression was particularly high in the alien species, which also had a particularly high prevalence of mites in both field and laboratory infections. Mite infections may therefore explain the low abundance of the alien corixid in low salinity ponds, where native corixids dominated and mites were abundant. Uninfected T. verticalis had a lower immune function than three native corixid species, probably because the alien is adapted to higher salinities where ectoparasites are absent, supporting the “cost of immunity hypothesis”. This study shows that higher immunocompetence in invasive species is not the rule as previously assumed, and highlights the need to better integrate immunology into invasion biology.


Eco-immunology response Ecto-parasites Corixidae Native and invasive insects Phenoloxidase activity 



Miguel Lozano Terol, Raquel López Luque, Ria Van Houdt and Sara Debecker helped with laboratory and fieldwork. Doñana Natural Space provided permission for fieldwork (2014/31). The staff of the Aquatic Ecology (LEA-EBD) and GIS and Remote Sensing (LAST-EBD) laboratories of EBD-CSIC provided essential assistance.

Author’s contribution

AJG, MS, RS and VC conceived the ideas and designed methodology. VC and RS collected the data. AJG, MS and VC analysed the data. AJG, MS, and VC led the writing of the manuscript.


This research was funded by the Consejería de Innovación, Ciencia y Empresa, Junta de Andalucía project (P10-RNM-6262) to AJG, a Severo Ochoa predoctoral contract (SVP-2013-067595) and a mobility Grant (EEBB-I-15-10016) from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN) to VC, and a Ramón y Cajal postdoctoral contract from MICINN to MIS (RYC-2011-09382).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Data accesibility

All data used in this paper can be found at

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

10530_2019_1988_MOESM1_ESM.docx (175 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 176 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wetland EcologyEstación Biológica de Doñana, EBD-CSICSevilleSpain
  2. 2.Evolutionary Stress Ecology and EcotoxicologyUniversity of LeuvenLouvainBelgium
  3. 3.Instituto Universitario de Investigación Marina (INMAR), Campus de Excelencia Internacional/Global del Mar (CEI·MAR)Universidad de CádizPuerto RealSpain

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