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Ecology, Wolbachia infection frequency and mode of reproduction in the parasitoid wasp Tetrastichus coeruleus (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae)

Authors

  • BARBARA M. REUMER,

    1. Section Animal Ecology, Institute of Biology Leiden, Sylvius Laboratory, University of Leiden, P.O. Box 9505, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
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  • JACQUES J. M. VAN ALPHEN,

    1. Section Animal Ecology, Institute of Biology Leiden, Sylvius Laboratory, University of Leiden, P.O. Box 9505, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
    2. UMR 6553 ECOBIO, Université de Rennes I, Campus de Beaulieu, Avenue du Général Leclerc, 35 042 Rennes cedex, France
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  • KEN KRAAIJEVELD

    1. Section Animal Ecology, Institute of Biology Leiden, Sylvius Laboratory, University of Leiden, P.O. Box 9505, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
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Barbara M. Reumer, Fax: 0031 (0) 71 527 4900; E-mail: B.M.Reumer@biology.leidenuniv.nl

Abstract

Whereas sexual reproduction may facilitate adaptation to complex environments with many biotic interactions, simplified environments are expected to favour asexual reproduction. In agreement with this, recent studies on invertebrates have shown a prevalence of asexual species in agricultural (simplified) but not in natural (complex) environments. We investigated whether the same correlation between reproductive mode and habitat can be found in different populations within one species. The parasitoid wasp Tetrastichus coeruleus forms an ideal model to test this question, since it occurs both in natural and agricultural environments. Further, we investigated whether Wolbachia infection caused parthenogenesis in female-biased populations. In contrast to the general pattern, in Dutch and French natural areas, we found Wolbachia-infected, highly female-biased populations that reproduce parthenogenetically. In contrast, populations on Dutch agricultural fields were not infected with Wolbachia, showed higher frequencies of males and reproduced sexually. However, we also found a female-only, Wolbachia-infected population on agricultural fields in north-eastern United States. All Wolbachia-infected populations were infected with the same Wolbachia strain. At this moment, we do not have a convincing explanation for this deviation from the general pattern of ecology and reproductive mode. It may be that asparagus agricultural fields differ from other crop fields in ways that favour sexual reproduction. Alternatively, Wolbachia may manipulate life history traits in its host, resulting in different fitness pay-offs in different habitats. The fixation of Wolbachia in the United States populations (where the species was introduced) may be due to founder effect and lack of uninfected, sexual source populations.

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