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J Evol Biol. 2017 Jan;30(1):202-209. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12964. Epub 2016 Sep 15.

Sexual healing: mating induces a protective immune response in bumblebees.

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Department of Biology, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, USA.
Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.
Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.


The prevalence of sexual, as opposed to clonal, reproduction given the many costs associated with sexual recombination has been an enduring question in evolutionary biology. In addition to these often discussed costs, there are further costs associated with mating, including the induction of a costly immune response, which leaves individuals prone to infection. Here, we test whether mating results in immune activation and susceptibility to a common, ecologically important, parasite of bumblebees. We find that mating does result in immune activation as measured by gene expression of known immune genes, but that this activation improves resistance to this parasite. We conclude that although mating can corrupt immunity in some systems, it can also enhance immunity in others.


Bombus ; Crithidia ; gene expression; host-parasite interaction; immunocompetence; sex differences; sexual selection and conflicts; trypanosome

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