Skip to main content

Variations in immune parameters with age in a wild rodent population and links with survival


Bichet, Coraline; Regis, Corinne; Gilot-Fromont, Emmanuelle; Cohas, Aurelie (2022), Variations in immune parameters with age in a wild rodent population and links with survival, Dryad, Dataset,


Recent findings suggest that immune functions do not unidirectionally deteriorate with age but that a potentially adaptive remodelling, where functions of the immune system get down regulated while others get upregulated with age could also occur. Scarce in wild populations, longitudinal studies are yet necessary to properly understand the patterns and consequences of age variations of the immune system in the wild. Meanwhile, it is challenging to understand if the observed variations in immune parameters with age are due to changes at the within-individual level or to selective (dis)appearance of individuals with peculiar immune phenotypes. Thanks to a long-term and longitudinal monitoring of a wild Alpine marmot population, we aimed to understand within- and between-individual variation in the immune phenotype with age, in order to improve our knowledge about the occurrence and the evolutionary consequences of such age-variations in the wild. To do so, we recorded the age-specific leukocyte concentration and leukocyte profile in repeatedly sampled dominant individuals. We then tested whether the potential changes with age were attributable to within-individual variations and/or selective (dis)appearance. Finally, we investigated if the leukocyte concentration and profiles were correlated to the probability of death at a given age. The leukocyte concentration was stable with age, but the relative number of lymphocytes decreased, while the relative number of neutrophils increased, over the course of an individual’s life. Moreover, between individuals of the same age, individuals with fewer lymphocytes but more neutrophils were more likely to die. Therefore, selective disappearance seems to play a role in the age variations of the immune parameters in this population. Further investigations linking age variations in immune phenotype to individual fitness are needed to understand whether remodelling of the immune system with age could or could not be adaptive.