Immune function boosted by life in the wild

Dec 06, 2010
Immune function boosted by life in the wild

Life in a demanding environment with limited resources might be better for the immune system than living in comfort, according to new research from the University of Bristol.

Professor Mark Viney and colleagues compared the immune function of wild who have to find their own food with that of mice bred in captivity who have all food and lodging provided for them.

The study found that, by most measures, the wild mice had greater immune function.  It also found that immune function was substantially more variable among the wild mice.

Professor Viney said: “We might be seeing an effect rather like that in the story of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse where different environments provide different types of challenge to individual animals and cause them to adapt and respond differently.”

The mice have to choose how much of their limited resources (energy, nutrients and so on) to allocate to various aspects of life such as competing for food and for mates, reproduction, maintaining body condition and immune function.

Different environments lead to different resource allocation ‘choices’ being made.  For example, one (extreme) strategy may be to invest heavily in immune function to prolong healthy life: live long and safely.  An alternative extreme may be to ‘gamble’ all resources into fast reproduction, rather than investing in immune function: live fast and riskily.

Professor Viney concluded: “As a result of these different ‘choices’, we might expect wild animals to have very different immune responses from their captive cousins.  Our findings suggest these wild mice are investing in immune responses to live long and safely, and doing so more than the captive mice.”

The next research challenge is to understand why immune responses are so varied and to identify which aspects of an individual animal’s life determines its .

The study is published today in Molecular Ecology.

Explore further: Flu at the zoo and other disasters: Experts help animal exhibitors prepare for the worst

More information: Measures of immune function of wild mice, Mus musculus by Stephen R. Abolins, et al. Molecular Ecology

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lice can be nice to us

Apr 22, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Parasite infestations might have a good side. Wild mice from a Nottinghamshire forest have given experts at The University of Nottingham clues as to the importance of some parasites, such as lice, for the ...

Study: New way to control inflammation

Oct 03, 2006

U.S. researchers say they've discovered a new way to control or terminate potentially harmful immune responses that produce inflammation.

Tolerating foreign materials in food

Nov 12, 2010

An international team of molecular biologists led by RIKEN researchers (Japan) has unraveled key details of the molecular mechanism whereby the body’s immune system determines what to attack among the ...

Recommended for you

Secret wing colours attract female fruit flies

Oct 22, 2014

Bright colours appear on a fruit fly's transparent wings against a dark background as a result of light refraction. Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have now demonstrated that females choose a mate ...

User comments : 0