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Biol Lett. 2005 Jun 22;1(2):181-4.

Impacts of fever on locust life-history traits: costs or benefits?

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  • 1NERC Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Ascot, Berks, UK.


Fever, like other mechanisms for defence against pathogens, may have positive and negative consequences for host fitness. In ectotherms, fever can be attained through modified behavioural thermoregulation. Here we examine potential costs of behavioural fever by holding adult, gregarious desert locusts at elevated temperatures simulating a range of fever intensities. We found no effect of fever temperatures on primary fitness correlates of survival and fecundity. However, flight capacity and mate competition were reduced, although there was no relation between time spent at fever temperatures and magnitude of the response. While these effects could indicate a direct cost of fever, they are also consistent with a shift towards the solitaria phase state that, in a field context, could be considered an adaptive life-history response to limit the impact of disease. These conflicting interpretations highlight the importance of considering complex defence mechanisms and trade-offs in an appropriate ecological context.

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