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Keywords:

  • coalescence;
  • Drosophila innubila;
  • endosymbionts;
  • genetic variation;
  • natural selection;
  • response to selection

Abstract

Maternally transmitted male-killing endosymbionts can exert strong and relentless selection pressure on their hosts to evolve resistance to these infections. Surveys of current infection prevalence and mtDNA diversity indicate that Drosophila innubila is and has been infected with male-killing Wolbachia at moderate frequencies for extended evolutionary periods. Here, we use coalescent simulations to infer the minimum age of the Wolbachia infection in this species, and estimate that the infection is at least 15 000 and perhaps over 700 000 years old. We also surveyed this species for genetic variation for resistance to the male-killing effects of infection. Our surveys revealed no evidence for any resistance polymorphism, such that all flies are completely susceptible to male killing. Given the general assumption that Drosophila can be selected for anything, the lack of resistance, despite thousands of years of strong selection, is an apparent evolutionary conundrum. We hypothesize that resistance requires a mutation of major effect that acts early in development, and that the adverse pleiotropic consequences of such mutations in both infected and uninfected individuals may exceed the possible benefit to infected flies.