A comparative study of leukocyte counts and disease risk in primates.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Little is known about how the risk of disease varies across species and its consequences for host defenses, including the immune system. I obtained mean values of basal white blood cells (WBC) from 100 species of primates to quantify disease risk, based on the assumption that higher baseline WBC counts will be found in species that experience greater risk of acquiring infectious disease. These data were used to investigate four hypotheses: disease risk is expected to increase with (1) group size and population density; (2) greater contact with soil-borne pathogens during terrestrial locomotion; (3) a slow life history; and (4) increased mating promiscuity. After controlling for phylogeny, WBC counts increased with female mating promiscuity, as reflected in discrete categories of partner number, relative testes mass, and estrous duration. By comparison, the social, ecological, and life-history hypotheses were unsupported in comparative tests. In terms of confounding variables, some WBC types were associated with body mass or activity period, but these variables could not account for the association with mating promiscuity. Several factors may explain why hypotheses involving social, ecological, and life-history factors went unsupported in these tests, including the role of behavioral counterstrategies to disease, restrictions on female choice of mating partners, and the effect of transmission mode on parasite strategies and host defenses.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Nunn, CL

Published Date

  • January 2002

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 56 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 177 - 190

PubMed ID

  • 11913662

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1558-5646

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0014-3820

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2002.tb00859.x


  • eng