Energetic constraints caused by reproductive investment may incur immunological and oxidative costs to a female and potentially to her developing offspring. Oviparous reptiles are capable of altering offspring phenotype through differential allocation of physiological factors during vitellogenesis (yolk formation), depending upon the external environment and the physiological state of the female. Despite its importance in protecting developing offspring against infection, maternal transfer of immune factors has rarely been studied in reptiles. Furthermore, the extent to which offspring may be impacted by the inherent oxidative costs of vitellogenesis is not well understood. Using the Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana) as a model, we examined how reproductive investment (clutch size and mass) influenced maternal immunological (BKA) and oxidative state (ROMs) and whether these metrics covaried with egg yolk immunity and oxidative state. We assessed factors influencing variation in egg yolk BKA and ROMs within and across clutches from all females and found that females with smaller clutches had higher BKA and ROMs than females with larger clutches. There was also an overall positive relationship between maternal BKA and ROMs and clutch mass, regardless of clutch size. We did not find maternal and egg yolk BKA and ROMs to be directly related, but yolk ROMs decreased as egg mass increased. Within-clutch variation in yolk BKA and ROMs was not related to maternal investment, but variation among clutches was explained by maternal identity. Because egg yolk physiology can impose long-lasting or permanent changes to offspring, these results create a foundation for future work investigating factors contributing to yolk physiology and highlight the necessity of considering multiple physiological and ecological variables when conducting eco-immunological research.
The Immunological and Oxidative Costs of Reproduction and Associations between Maternal and Egg Yolk Physiology in a Reptile
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Emily E. Virgin, Spencer B. Hudson, Alison C. Webb, Susannah S. French; The Immunological and Oxidative Costs of Reproduction and Associations between Maternal and Egg Yolk Physiology in a Reptile. Ichthyology & Herpetology 1 June 2022; 110 (2): 252–261. doi: https://doi.org/10.1643/h2021040
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