Consequences of Prenatal Androgen Exposure for Offspring Health an Experimental Study in Wild Meerkats

Meeting Abstract

P3-27  Saturday, Jan. 7 15:30 – 17:30  Consequences of Prenatal Androgen Exposure for Offspring Health: an Experimental Study in Wild Meerkats SMYTH, KN*; STONEHILL, A; CARUSO, N; DREA, CM; Duke University, Durham, NC and The Kalahari Research Trust, Kuruman River Reserve, South Africa ; Duke University, Durham, NC; University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; Duke University, Durham, NC

Androgens underlie a well-known tradeoff between reproductive benefits versus health costs in males. Despite substantial variation in female androgen production and the potential for transgenerational effects, this tradeoff is underappreciated in females and their offspring. In the cooperatively breeding meerkat (Suricata suricatta), dominant females benefit from raised androgens through increased competitive abilities, particularly during pregnancy, but suffer from androgen-mediated immunosuppression (Smyth and Drea 2016; Smyth et al. 2016). Here, we ask if exposure to raised prenatal androgens produces a comparable trade-off in meerkat pups. From 2012-15, we measured innate immune responses in pups derived from dominant and subordinate control dams, and from dominant dams treated with an androgen-receptor blocker. We found stronger immune responses in pups from dominant versus subordinate dams; however, blocking prenatal androgens improved the pups’ innate immune responses. Thus, an ‘inherited,’ androgen-mediated immunohandicap may be offset by the social benefits accrued to pups of dominant females.

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