In this short survey of the relationship between reproduction and immunity in female insects I have made a case that this is a potentially rich area for uncovering novel immunological phenomena. This is because immune insult is relatively predictable, and to some extent controlled by females. Because of this predictability, and the frequency of mating-associated immune phenomena, examination of this aspect of immunology provides a tractable opportunity to study immunity in field systems and thereby better understand the ecological context of immune function.
Male genitalia evolve rapidly and divergently (see Eberhard, 1985) and despite a broad understanding of the selection pressures that might drive this evolution (e.g. Parker, 1970; Eberhard,
1985; Reinhardt, 2009) the functional interactions between male and female genitalia during mating remains relatively obscure. Sclerotized spines and bristles on the male's aedeagus have the potential to damage the female's genital tract and, despite the increasing number of examples of this phenomenon, we still know almost nothing about the immunological consequences of mating-induced damage. Given that females have responded to damaging male genital traits by evolving a novel immune organ in the extreme example of the bedbug (Morrow and Arnqvist, 2003; Reinhardt et al., 2003), it is likely that more subtle immunological responses are waiting to be discovered in taxa where males do less obvious harm to their mates.
Although this chapter has concentrated on the immunological consequences of damage imposed on females by males, it is likely that in species where males damage each other in intrasexual fights males may also display specific immuno-logical adaptations to cope. Despite a large literature that (a) documents fighting and (b) examines the underlying sexual selection in insect taxa (e.g. Thornhill and Alcock, 1983) almost no studies have examined how males respond to wounding before, during, or after fighting.
In conclusion, I propose that wounding associated with mating and mate encounter is predictable in space and time, especially in females. The resulting immunological phenomena are likely to be be linked to patterns in the insect's behaviour, reproductive anatomy, cuticular microbial flora, and life-history investment. The study of these phenomena therefore offers the opportunity to disentangle the important relationship(s) between ecology and immunity.
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