An organism’s ability to survive is not limited to the number of resources available but even more importantly the organism’s ability to fight off infections. Immunity is one of the most important features an organism has to distinguish and protect itself against certain pathogens that could potentially be fatal to the organism. From the first line of defense such as skin and mucous membranes, an organism’s body is constantly fighting off antigens. Antigens are molecules from a pathogen or a foreign organism that provoke a specific immune response. There are several ways a body prevents specific antigens from entering the body or causing harm, starting with non-specific mechanisms that include the first and second lines of defense. When an antigen passes the skin barrier an inflammatory response is set into motion to prohibit any further attack on the body. This inflammatory response includes the work of phagocytic white blood cells and anti-microbial proteins. When that alone, is not able to defeat the antigens, a specific mechanism including lymphocytes and antibodies make up the third line of defense.
All organisms are born with immunity which is commonly referred to as innate immunity. However, most importantly as an organism grows, an acquired immunity is developed either naturally or artificially. Natural passive immunity may be an organism’s most important form of immunity since it is passed from the mother to the fetus via the placenta or after birth during breast feeding. Although this immunity is usually only temporary, it protects the offspring while their own immune system develops. Current studies have addressed important issues regarding environmental and genetic factors affecting the amount of antibodies transferred from mother to offspring and whether these antibodies are affecting the offspring’s immunity, including any evolutionary and ecological implications (Boulinier and Staszewski 2008).
Maternal antibodies can be transferred to the offspring via the placenta, the egg yolk or even during lactation in the milk produced for each respective organism. An important detail to recall is that depending on the organism, there are different antibodies being transferred from mother to offspring. “The fact that different classes or subclasses of immunoglobulins are transferred via different routes is important because different antibodies are known to be involved in different immunological mechanisms of response toward various antigens.” (Boulinier and Staszewski 2008). Research has been conducted to present information about how these maternal antibodies make their way from the mother to the fetus but there is still very little knowledge about whether these specific pathways have evolved over time.
Being that the transfer of maternal antibodies is an essential process, it is important to understand whether “maternal antibody transfer increases the fitness of the offspring and the mother, and what factors affect maternal...