Females gain survival benefits from immune-boosting ejaculates

Amy M. Worthington, Clint D. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Females in many animal taxa incur significant costs from mating in the form of injury or infection, which can drastically reduce survival. Therefore, immune function during reproduction can be important in determining lifetime fitness. Trade-offs between reproduction and immunity have been extensively studied, yet a growing number of studies demonstrate that mated females have a stronger immune response than virgins. Here, we use the Texas field cricket, Gryllus texensis, to test multiple hypotheses proposed to explain this postmating increase in immune function. Using host-resistance tests, we found that courtship, copulation, and accessory fluids alone do not affect female immunity; rather, only females that acquire intact ejaculates containing testes-derived components exhibit significant increases in survival after exposure to bacterial pathogens. Our data suggest that male-derived components originating from an intact ejaculate and transferred to females during sex are required for the increased immune function characteristic of mated female crickets to occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)928-933
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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