Evolutionary ecology of insect immune defenses

Annu Rev Entomol. 2005;50:529-51. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ento.50.071803.130420.


Evolutionary ecology seeks to understand the selective reasons for the design features of the immune defense, especially with respect to parasitism. The molecular processes thereby set limitations, such as the failure to recognize an antigen, response specificity, the cost of defense, and the risk of autoimmunity. Sex, resource availability, and interference by parasites also affect a response. In turn, the defense repertoire consists of different kinds of immune responses--constitutive or induced, general or specific--and involves memory and lasting protection. Because the situation often defies intuition, mathematical analysis is typically required to identify the costs and benefits of variation in design, but such studies are few. In all, insect immune defense is much more similar to that of vertebrates than previously thought. In addition, the field is now rapidly becoming revolutionized by molecular data and methods that allow unprecedented access to study evolution in action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Ecology
  • Immunity / physiology
  • Insecta / immunology*