Evidence for a cost of immunity when the crustacean Daphnia magna is exposed to the bacterial pathogen Pasteuria ramosa

Thomas Little, Stuart C. Killick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. The deployment of the immune system has the obvious potential to ameliorate infection outcomes, but immune responses can also harm hosts by either damaging host tissues or monopolizing resources, leading to enhanced mortality. To gain insight into such a 'cost of immunity' when the crustacean Daphnia magna is challenged with the bacterium Pasteuria ramosa, we measured survivorship among hosts that resisted infection following exposure to various strains and doses of the parasite.

2. In the first of two experiments, these exposures were: single exposures with relatively non-aggressive strains, double exposures with non-aggressive strains, and exposure to aggressive strains. Mortality increased across this gradient of exposure. In a second experiment, we varied the dose of the most aggressive P. ramosa strain and found that resisting infection when a large dose was applied resulted in greater mortality than when a medium or low dose was applied.

3. Assuming that resistance is accomplished with an immune response, and that more aggressive parasites and/or larger doses of parasites are more immunostimulatory, these data are compatible with a cost of immunity. Indeed, in terms of survival, resisting parasites can be more harmful than infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1202-1207
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007


  • acquired immunity
  • cost of resistance
  • immunopathology

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