Can cytoplasmic incompatibility inducing Wolbachia promote the evolution of mate preferences?


F. E. Champion de Crespigny, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter in Cornwall, Penryn TR10 9EZ, UK.
Tel.: +44 (0) 132 637 1852; fax: +44 (0) 132 637 0450;


The maternally inherited bacterium, Wolbachia pipientis, manipulates host reproduction by rendering uninfected females reproductively incompatible with infected males (cytoplasmic incompatibility, CI). Hosts may evolve mechanisms, such as mate preferences, to avoid fitness costs of Wolbachia infection. Despite the potential importance of mate choice for Wolbachia population dynamics, this possibility remains largely unexplored. Here we model the spread of an allele encoding female mate preference for uninfected males alongside the spread of CI inducing Wolbachia. Mate preferences can evolve but the spread of the preference allele depends on factors associated with both Wolbachia infection and the preference allele itself. Incomplete maternal transmission of Wolbachia, fitness costs and low CI, improve the spread of the preference allele and impact on the population dynamics of Wolbachia. In addition, mate preferences are found in infected individuals. These results have important consequences for the fate of Wolbachia and studies addressing mate preferences in infected populations.