Studies on birds and mammals indicate that sexual traits may signal superior health because active immunity, like inflammatory responses to infections, is suppressive to the production of androgens that facilitate the expression of these traits. Here we test this possible pathway for honest signaling in a teleost species, Sarotherodon galilaeus, by activating the immune system with sheep red blood cells (SRBC), which is a non-pathogenic T- and B-cell stimulating antigen. Two weeks after the start of treatment adult males injected with SRBC showed a significant increase in antibody production in comparison with control males. The variation in specific antibody production was negatively related with variation in both testosterone and 11-ketotestosterone levels. This suggests that investment in immune protection is incompatible with increased activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. However, opposite to our expectation no difference in androgen levels was found between placebo and SRBC treatment suggesting that immune activation did not cause androgen suppression in our studied species.
- SRBC challenge
- Sexual selection