Parental investment and immune dynamics in sex-role reversed pipefishes
Parental care elevates reproductive success by allocating resources into the upbringing of the offspring. However, it also imposes strong costs for the care-giving parent and can foster sexual dimorphism. Trade-offs between the reproductive system and the immune system may result in differential immunological capacities between the care-providing and the non-care-providing parent. Usually, providing care is restricted to the female sex making it impossible to study a sex-independent influence
... pendent influence of parental investment on sexual immune dimorphism. The decoupling of sex-dependent parental investment and their influences on the parental immunological capacity, however, is possible in syngnathids, which evolved the unique male pregnancy on a gradient ranging from a simple carrying of eggs on the trunk (Nerophinae, low paternal investment) to full internal pregnancy (Syngnathus, high paternal investment). In this study, we compared candidate gene expression between females and males of different gravity stages in three species of syngnathids (Syngnathus typhle, Syngnathus rostellatus and Nerophis ophidion) with different male pregnancy intensities to determine how parental investment influences sexual immune dimorphism. While our data failed to detect sexual immune dimorphism in the subset of candidate genes assessed, we show a parental care specific resource-allocation trade-off between investment into pregnancy and immune defense when parental care is provided.