Influence of social factors on immune function and reproduction
Animals are presented with continuous energy demands that vary seasonally. For example, during the winter many small mammals and birds inhibit reproduction and growth and funnel energy into thermogenesis or cellular maintenance. As energy shortages become more severe, survival may become compromised because processes such as immune function and thermogenesis are impaired. Thus, there are trade-offs between energetically expensive processes such as reproduction and immune function. In this review, the immune function and reproduction of seasonally breeding species are evaluated in relation to social interactions. It is proposed that individuals maintain the highest degree of immune function that is energetically possible within the constraints of other survival needs, as well as growth and reproduction, in habitats in which energy requirements and availability often fluctuate. It is hypothesized that extrinsic factors, such as social environment, modulate energy allocation to reproductive and immune function and that hormonal mechanisms underlie the partitioning of energy to various physiological components.