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The cost of an immune response: vaccination reduces parental effort

  • Lars Råberg
  • Jan-Åke Nilsson
  • P Ilmonen
  • Martin Stjernman
  • Dennis Hasselquist
Publishing year: 2000
Language: English
Pages: 382-386
Publication/Series: Ecology Letters
Volume: 3
Issue: 5
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

A fundamental assumption of theories of the ecology and evolution of inducible defences is that protective responses to attacks by parasites or predators should not only have benefits, but also costs. The vertebrate immune system is by far the best studied example of an inducible defence, yet little is known about the costs of an immune response, especially in natural populations. To test: if an immune response per se is costly, we induced an antibody response in female blue tits, Parus caeruleus, by immunising them with human diphtheria-tetanus vaccine, and compared their nestling-feeding rate with that of saline-injected controls. We found that vaccinated females reduced their nestling feeding rate, thus demonstrating a cost of the immune response in the currency of parental effort.


  • Biological Sciences


  • Immunoecology
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 1461-023X