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Evolution of male-killer suppression in a natural population.

  • Author(s): Hornett, Emily A
  • Charlat, Sylvain
  • Duplouy, Anne MR
  • Davies, Neil
  • Roderick, George K
  • Wedell, Nina
  • Hurst, Gregory DD
  • et al.
Abstract

Male-killing bacteria are widespread in arthropods, and can profoundly alter the reproductive biology of their host species. Here we detail the first case of complete suppression of a male killer. The nymphalid butterfly Hypolimnas bolina is infected with a strain of the bacterium Wolbachia, wBol1, which kills male host embryos in Polynesian populations, but does not do so in many areas of Southeast Asia, where both males and female adults are naturally infected, and wBol1-infected females produce a 1:1 sex ratio. We demonstrate that absence of male killing by wBol1 is associated with dominant zygotic suppression of the action of the male killer. Simulations demonstrate host suppressors of male-killer action can spread very rapidly, and historical data indicating the presence of male killing in Southeast Asia in the very recent past suggests suppressor spread has been a very recent occurrence. Thus, male killer/host interactions are much more dynamic than previously recognised, with rapid and dramatic loss of the phenotype. Our results also indicate that suppression can render male killers completely quiescent, leading to the conclusion that some species that do not currently express a male killer may have done so in the past, and thus that more species have had their biology affected by these parasites than previously believed.

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