Immunological vulnerability and adjustments to environmental thermal variability
Ecological physiologists recognize the potential impacts of temperature on physiological traits, however less attention has been paid to changes in thermal variation on a scale that pertains directly to living organisms. Also, few studies have examined the effects of temperature variation or other climatic drivers on host-pathogen interactions. We evaluated the effect of acclimation to ambient temperature variability (0, 4 and 8 °C daily variability) on the immune performance in the insect Tenebrio molitor (Coleoptera). We observed that antibacterial activity differed significantly between treatments. In addition, variances of antibacterial activity were larger under the more variable thermal conditions. Similarly to antibacterial responses, tyrosinase phenoloxidase activity was higher in animals living in the most variable thermal condition. We hypothesized that a stress-associated mechanism may affect negatively the constitutive immune activity in T. molitor. It is well known that acute stress can cause in insects a transient impairment in the resistance to bacterial infection. This increase in susceptibility to diseases is mediated, at least in part, by the release of neuro-hormones in response to stress.