Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Evolution. 2011 Jun;65(6):1791-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2011.01241.x. Epub 2011 Feb 21.

Immune defense in leaf-cutting ants: a cross-fostering approach.

Author information

  • 1Centre for Social Evolution, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.


To ameliorate the impact of disease, social insects combine individual innate immune defenses with collective social defenses. This implies that there are different levels of selection acting on investment in immunity, each with their own trade-offs. We present the results of a cross-fostering experiment designed to address the influences of genotype and social rearing environment upon individual and social immune defenses. We used a multiply mating leaf-cutting ant, enabling us to test for patriline effects within a colony, as well as cross-colony matriline effects. The worker's father influenced both individual innate immunity (constitutive antibacterial activity) and the size of the metapleural gland, which secretes antimicrobial compounds and functions in individual and social defense, indicating multiple mating could have important consequences for both defense types. However, the primarily social defense, a Pseudonocardia bacteria that helps to control pathogens in the ants' fungus garden, showed a significant colony of origin by rearing environment interaction, whereby ants that acquired the bacteria of a foster colony obtained a less abundant cover of bacteria: one explanation for this pattern would be co-adaptation between host colonies and their vertically transmitted mutualist. These results illustrate the complexity of the selection pressures that affect the expression of multilevel immune defenses.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

LinkOut - more resources

Full Text Sources

Other Literature Sources

PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Support Center