A summer heat wave decreases the immunocompetence of the mesograzer,Idotea baltica

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Abstract

Extreme events associated with global change will impose increasing stress on coastal organisms. How strong biological interactions such as the host-parasite arms-race are modulated by environmental change is largely unknown. The immune system of invertebrates, in particular phagocytosis and phenoloxidase activity response are key defence mechanisms against parasites, yet they may be sensitive to environmental perturbations. We here simulated an extreme event that mimicked the European heat wave in 2003 to investigate the effect of environmental change on the immunocompetence of the mesograzer Idotea baltica. Unlike earlier studies, our experiment aimed at simulation of the natural situation as closely as possible by using long acclimation, a slow increase in temperature and a natural community setting including the animals' providence with natural food sources (Zostera marina and Fucus vesiculosus). Our results demonstrate that a simulated heat wave results in decreased immunocompetence of the mesograzer Idotea baltica, in particular a drop of phagocytosis by 50%. This suggests that global change has the potential to significantly affect host-parasite interactions.

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