skip to main content


Title: Costs of immune responses are related to host body size and lifespan

A central assumption in ecological immunology is that immune responses are costly, with costs manifesting directly (e.g., increases in metabolic rate and increased amino acid usage) or as tradeoffs with other life processes (e.g., reduced growth and reproductive success). Across taxa, host longevity, timing of maturity, and reproductive effort affect the organization of immune systems. It is reasonable, therefore, to expect that these and related factors should also affect immune activation costs. Specifically, species that spread their breeding efforts over a long lifetime should experience lower immune costs than those that mature and breed quickly and die comparatively early. Likewise, body mass should affect immune costs, as body size affects the extent to which hosts are exposed to parasites as well as how hosts can combat infections (via its effects on metabolic rates and other factors). Here in this paper, we used phylogenetic meta-regression to reveal that, in general, animals incur costs of immune activation, but small species that are relatively long-lived incur the largest costs. These patterns probably arise because of the relative need for defense when infection risk is comparatively high and fitness can only be realized over a comparatively long period. However, given the diversity of speciesmore » considered here and the overall modest effects of body mass and life history on immune costs, much more research is necessary before generalizations are appropriate.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [5] ; ORCiD logo [6] ; ORCiD logo [7] ;  [8] ; ORCiD logo [1]
  1. Univ. of South Florida, Tampa, FL (United States). Dept. of Integrative Biology
  2. Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA (United States). Dept. of Biology
  3. Virginia Polytechnic Inst. and State Univ. (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA (United States). Dept. of Biological Sciences
  4. Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA (United States). Dept. of Natural Resource Ecology and Management
  5. Deakin Univ., Geelong (Australia). School of Life and Environmental Sciences
  6. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  7. Oklahoma State Univ., Stillwater, OK (United States). Dept. of Integrative Biology
  8. Wageningen Univ., Wageningen (The Netherlands). Dept. of Environmental Science
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 2471-5638
Grant/Contract Number:
AC52-06NA25396; 1R15HD066378; 0947177; 0920475; 1257773; 1656551
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 327; Journal Issue: 5; Journal ID: ISSN 2471-5638
Research Org:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation (NSF); USDOE; National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Country of Publication:
United States
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; 60 APPLIED LIFE SCIENCES; Biological Science; Immunology, immune costs
OSTI Identifier: