Lovesick: Immunological costs of mating to male sagebrush crickets

J. C. Leman, C. B. Weddle, S. N. Gershman, A. M. Kerr, G. D. Ower, J. M. St John, L. A. Vogel, S. K. Sakaluk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A growing body of evidence suggests that resources invested in reproduction often come at the expense of the ability to mount an immune response. During mating, female sagebrush crickets, Cyphoderris strepitans, consume the ends of the male's hind wings and ingest his haemolymph. Previous research has shown that this behaviour impairs the ability of males to secure additional matings. One hypothesis to account for this effect is that wing wounding triggers an energetically costly immune response, such that nonvirgin males are unable to sustain the costly acoustical signalling needed to attract additional females. To test this hypothesis, we injected virgin males with lipopolysaccharides (LPS) to provoke an immune response, and monitored their mating success in the field. LPS-injected virgin males took significantly longer to mate than sham-injected virgin males, and spent significantly less time calling. We also compared virgin, nonvirgin and experimentally wing-wounded virgin males with respect to: (1) their ability to encapsulate a foreign invader via the accumulation of haemocytes and deposition of melanin and (2) baseline levels of phenoloxidase (PO), a key enzyme in the biochemical cascade leading to the production of melanin. Although encapsulation ability did not differ with reproductive experience, virgin males had significantly higher levels of PO than either nonvirgin or experimentally wing-wounded virgin males. These results suggest that wing-wounding alone is sufficient to impair male immunity, and that males trade-off investment in reproduction and immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-171
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Crickets
  • Cyphoderris strepitans
  • Insect immunity
  • Life history trade-offs
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Mating success
  • Nuptial food gifts
  • Phenoloxidase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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