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Alternative Male Reproductive Tactics and the Immunocompetence Handicap in the Azorean Rock-Pool Blenny, Parablennius parvicornis

Albert F. H. Ros, Niels Bouton, Ricardo S. Santos and Rui F. Oliveira
Proceedings: Biological Sciences
Vol. 273, No. 1589 (Apr. 22, 2006), pp. 901-909
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25223385
Page Count: 9
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Alternative Male Reproductive Tactics and the Immunocompetence Handicap in the Azorean Rock-Pool Blenny, Parablennius parvicornis
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Abstract

In the Azorean rock-pool blenny (Parablennius parvicornis) reproductively active males display alternative morphotypes, which differ in the expression of secondary sexual characters (SSC). Males expressing SSC, the M+ morphotype, have high androgen levels and compete for crevices that will be visited by females to spawn. M+ males holding nests court females and care for the eggs. Males with low expression of SSC, the M- morphotype, have low levels of androgens and reproduce by stealing fertilizations from the M+ males. Based on the hypothesis that androgens are immunosuppressive, we expected these morphotypes to differ in immunocompetence. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a field study in which we collected repeated blood samples to monitor leukocyte populations (blood smears), and to measure the primary antibody response of males that were experimentally challenged with a foreign non-pathogenic antigen (sheep red blood cells). Circulating levels of 11-ketotestosterone and testosterone were higher in M+ males than in M- males. Neither granulocyte nor thrombocyte counts did covariate with androgens or male tactic. In contrast, lymphocyte counts and humoral antibody response were negatively correlated with body size, and as expected, both were lower in M+ than in M- males. Interestingly, in M+ males androgen levels decreased after immunization, and this was less in nest-holder males than in M+ males that were floating around in the pools. Within each morphotype we found no relationship between androgens and immunocompetence. The latter result is not supportive for androgen regulated immunosuppression in M+ males. A possible alternative is enhancement of immunity in M- males. These males had relatively high levels of injuries in comparison with M+ males. High immunity might be a consequence of high infection rate because of such injuries.

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