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The immunocompetence handicap hypothesis: testing the genetic predictions.


Kurtz,  Joachim
Department Evolutionary Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Kurtz, J., & Sauer, K. P. (1999). The immunocompetence handicap hypothesis: testing the genetic predictions. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 266(1437), 2515-2522.

The immunocompetence handicap hypothesis suggests that the immune system competes for resources with sexually selected ornaments; variation in ornaments might reflect genetic variation for immunocompetence. We tested this genetic prediction by mating scorpionfly females to males differing in the expression of a condition-dependent ornament trait, saliva secretion, and then comparing offspring immunocompetence. We found several indications of an immunocompetence handicap in our study: females had superior immunocompetence compared with males, the different immune traits were positively correlated, and there were indications of genetic variation in immune traits. However, we found no significant difference in the immunocompetence of offspring derived from males differing in ornament expression, only a tendency for sons of ornamented males to possess slightly better immunocompetence. The estimated effect of fathers on offspring immunocompetence was rather small, but it might be a sufficient benefit of female choice, provided that the costs of choice are small. We conclude that the genetic benefit of female choice is small concerning offspring immunocompetence. but the immunocompetence handicap principle might nevertheless work in scorpionflies.