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Open Access Research article

An immune response in the bumblebee, Bombus terrestris leads to increased food consumption

Elizabeth R Tyler, Sally Adams and Eamonn B Mallon*

Author Affiliations

Department of Biology, University of Leicester, University Road, LE1 7RH, Leicester, UK

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BMC Physiology 2006, 6:6  doi:10.1186/1472-6793-6-6

Published: 17 July 2006

Abstract

Background

The concept of a costly immune system that must be traded off against other important physiological systems is fundamental to the burgeoning field of ecological immunity. Bumblebees have become one of the central models in this field. Although previous work has demonstrated costs of immunity in numerous life history traits, estimates of the more direct costs of bumblebee immunity have yet to be made.

Results

Here we show a 7.5% increase in energy consumption in response to non-pathogenic immune stimulation.

Conclusion

This increase in energy consumption along with other results suggests that immunity is one of the most important physiological systems, with other systems being sacrificed for its continuing efficiency. This increased consumption and maintained activity contrasts with the sickness-induced anorexia and reduced activity found in vertebrates.