Testing the Immunocompetence Hadicap Hypothesis
The immunocompetence handicap hypothesis seeks to explain the relationship between steroid hormone levels, male sexual ornamentation and immune function. Specifically, this hypothesis asserts that androgens are beneficial to males in that they promote the development of secondary sexual characteristics that aid in attracting a mate, but that they may also be detrimental to males due to their ability to suppress immune function. Our lab has been conducting studies to determine whether androgen levels are correlated with the display of secondary sexual characteristics and immunosuppression in male fathead minnows. In collaboration with Dr. Matt Hale, we are also utilizing next generation sequencing technology to compare the differential gene expression profiles of male minnows with prominent secondary sexual characteristics to those with less prominant secondary sexual characteristics. This analysis will help us identify genes and molecular signaling pathway that account for the observed phenotypic variation in male secondary sexual characteristics.