September 5, 2018

Immunologically structured societies (2016)

Seed Grant in Social and Biological Determinants of Health

Organizers are Seth Barribeau, Olav Rueppell, and David Tarpy. The vertebrate immune system is capable of not only exquisite detail, in terms of its specificity, but is also able to remember previous diseases to protect against future exposure. What’s less well known is that this is not unique to vertebrates. Many ‘simpler’ organisms are able to retain memory of past pathogens and are even able to transmit this information to their offspring. Intriguingly, both mothers and fathers are able to warn their offspring of probable diseases. In many animal systems, females may mate with many males and have offspring sired by some number of those males. This is true in honeybees, where queens mate with many males. Both honeybee and bumblebee queens are able to transfer protection to their daughters but it isn’t known whether this protection can be transferred by males, as is the case in beetles for example. This has important implications for understanding honeybee loss, much of which is attributed to disease, but also opens the door to an amazing social system with which to study epidemiology in an immunologically complex society.

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