No evidence for an evolutionary trade-off between learning and immunity in a social insect.
journal contributionposted on 25.02.2010, 14:31 by A. Alghamdi, N. E. Raine, Ezio Rosato, Eamonn B. Mallon
The immune response affects learning and memory in insects. Given this and the known fitness costs of both the immune system and learning, does an evolutionary trade-off exist between these two systems? We tested this by measuring the learning ability of 12 bumble-bee (Bombus terrestris) colonies in a free-flying paradigm. We then tested their immune response using the zone of inhibition assay. We found a positive relationship between colony learning performance and immune response, that is, fast-learning colonies also show high levels of antimicrobial activity. We conclude that there is no a priori reason to demand an evolutionary relationship between two traits that are linked physiologically.