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Keywords:

  • assortative mating;
  • cytoplasmic incompatibility;
  • reproductive behaviour;
  • spider mite;
  • vertically transmitted symbiont;
  • Wolbachia

Abstract

Wolbachia bacteria are transmitted from mother to offspring via the cytoplasm of the egg. When mated to males infected with Wolbachia bacteria, uninfected females produce unviable offspring, a phenomenon called cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI). Current theory predicts that ‘sterilization’ of uninfected females by infected males confers a fitness advantage to Wolbachia in infected females. When the infection is above a threshold frequency in a panmictic population, CI reduces the fitness of uninfected females below that of infected females and, consequently, the proportion of infected hosts increases. CI is a mechanism that benefits the bacteria but, apparently, not the host. The host could benefit from avoiding incompatible mates. Parasite load and disease resistance are known to be involved in mate choice. Can Wolbachia also be implicated in reproductive behaviour? We used the two-spotted spider mite – Wolbachia symbiosis to address this question. Our results suggest that uninfected females preferably mate to uninfected males while infected females aggregate their offspring, thereby promoting sib mating. Our data agrees with other results that hosts of Wolbachia do not necessarily behave as innocent bystanders – host mechanisms that avoid CI can evolve.