Dehydration enhances cellular and humoral immunity in a mesic snake community

George A. Brusch, Anthony M. Mills, Rachel M. Walman, Garrett Masuda, Andy Byeon, Dale F. DeNardo, Zachary R. Stahlschmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The immunocompetence of a community of free-living animals can be affected by seasonality, sex, and parasite burden. However, each of these factors is often examined independently. Recent studies have also found that dehydration can enhance aspects of immunocompetence in drought-adapted species. To explore how all of these factors interact, and their effect on the immune system in mesic-adapted species, we collected blood samples from a community of free-ranging snakes in coastal South Carolina, United States, across 2 years. We specifically examined (a) how sex and seasonality influence humoral and cellular immunocompetence and parasite burden, (b) the dynamics among hydration state, parasite burden, and immunocompetence, and (c) whether mesic-adapted species also show enhanced innate immunity with dehydration. Consistent with previous work on drought-adapted species, we found that dehydration enhances multiple aspects of humoral immunity in mesic species, and we are the first to report that dehydration also enhances aspects of cellular immunocompetence. Contrary to previous results in other squamates, sex and season did not impact immunocompetence or parasite prevalence. Our results also reveal complex interactions among parasite prevalence, immunocompetence, and hydration state demonstrating that hydration state and parasitism are two ubiquitous factors that should continue to be considered in future studies examining ecoimmunological variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-315
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • ecoimmunology
  • hydration
  • immunocompetence
  • osmotic stress
  • parasitemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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