Social Immunity: Emergence and Evolution of Colony-Level Disease Protection

Sylvia Cremer, Christopher Pull, Matthias A. Fuerst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social insect colonies have evolved many collectively performed adaptations that reduce the impact of infectious disease and that are expected to maximize their fitness. This colony-level protection is termed social immunity, and it enhances the health and survival of the colony. In this review, we address how social immunity emerges from its mechanistic components to produce colony-level disease avoidance, resistance, and tolerance. To understand the evolutionary causes and consequences of social immunity, we highlight the need for studies that evaluate the effects of social immunity on colony fitness. We discuss the role that host life history and ecology have on predicted eco-evolutionary dynamics, which differ among the social insect lineages. Throughout the review, we highlight current gaps in our knowledge and promising avenues for future research, which we hope will bring us closer to an integrated understanding of socio-eco-evo-immunology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-123
Number of pages19
JournalAnnual Review of Entomology
Early online date25 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

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