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Trends Ecol Evol. 2008 May;23(5):282-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2007.12.006. Epub 2008 Apr 2.

Maternal transfer of antibodies: raising immuno-ecology issues.

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Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), CNRS-UMR 5175, Montpellier, France.


The transfer of antibodies from mother to offspring has broad potential implications in evolutionary ecology, from the adaptive value of maternal effects to the role of transgenerational plasticity in host-parasite interactions. Recent contributions have addressed key issues such as environmental and genetic factors affecting the amount of antibodies transferred and whether maternal antibodies affect offspring immunity, but little is still known about the implications of the maternal transfer of antibodies in natural populations. By its position at the crossroads between population ecology, animal science, medicine and epidemiology, current studies of the role of the maternal transfer of antibodies highlight how research in ecological immunology needs to combine functional and evolutionary approaches while also keeping in mind ecological settings.

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