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Phenoloxidase activity and melanization do not always covary with sexual trait expression in Hetaerina damselflies (Insecta: Calopterygidae)

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Sexual selection theory indicates that males use sexual traits to signal immune ability, a hypothesis known as the immunocompetence principle. A positive relationship between sexual traits and immune ability is not always present. Here we illustrate this pattern by using five damselfly species in the genus Hetaerina. Previous studies have documented a positive correlation between sexual trait expression (wing spot size) and immune ability in members of this genus. These studies have also documented that there are fitness and energetic costs of producing and bearing wing pigmentation. First we used five Hetaerina species to investigate the correlation between spot size and phenoloxidase (PO) activity (a key insect immune component) in two contrasting seasons. Second, we experimentally challenged males of two Hetaerina species and correlated spot size with PO activity and melanization ability. Results indicate either a positive relationship, a negative relationship or, more commonly, no relationship at all between immune components and wing pigmentation. Season did not predict any of these relationships or expression of spot size and PO activity. These results, although limited to two immune components, indicate that the relationship between sexual trait expression and immunity is not always consistent.

Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Circuito Exterior s/n, Apdo. Postal 70-275, Mexico, D.F. 04510, Mexico; 2: Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Circuito Exterior s/n, Apdo. Postal 70-275, Mexico, D.F. 04510, Mexico;, Email:; 3: Centro de Investigación Sobre Enfermedades Infecciosas, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, Av. Universidad 655. Col. Sta. María Ahuacatitlán, 62508 Cuernavaca, Morelos, México


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