In invertebrates, it has recently been reported that secondary sexual characteristics (SSCs) reflect the antioxidant defense of their bearers, but it is not known what physiological link maintains the honesty of those signals. Here, we used the damselfly Hetaerina americana to test whether juvenile hormone plays such a role. First, we analyzed whether oxidative damage is a real threat in natural damselfly populations by examining the accumulation of oxidized guanines as a function of age in males. Then, we injected paraquat (a pro-oxidant agent) and added the juvenile hormone analog methoprene (JHa) to the experimental group and the JHa vehicle (acetone) to the control group, to determine whether JHa increases the levels of pro-oxidants and antioxidants. We found that DNA oxidation increased with age, and that levels of hydrogen peroxide and superoxide dismutase, but not catalase or glutathione, were elevated in the JHa group compared with the control group. We propose that juvenile hormone is a mediator of the relationship between SSCs and antioxidant capacity and, based on the literature, we know that JHa suppresses the immune response. We therefore suggest that juvenile hormone is a molecular mediator of the general health of males, which is reflected in their SSCs.
Keywords: Antioxidants; DNA damage; Handicap principle; Hetaerina americana; Immune response; Male condition.
© 2019. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.