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Keywords:

  • butterfly;
  • endosymbiont;
  • recent sweep;
  • structured habitat

Abstract

Reproductive parasites such as Wolbachia can spread through uninfected host populations by increasing the relative fitness of the infected maternal lineage. However, empirical estimates of how fast this process occurs are limited. Here we use nucleotide sequences of male-killing Wolbachia bacteria and co-inherited mitochondria to address this issue in the island butterfly Hypolimnas bolina. We show that infected specimens scattered throughout the species range harbour the same Wolbachia and mitochondrial DNA as inferred from 6337 bp of the bacterial genome and 2985 bp of the mitochondrial genome, suggesting this strain of Wolbachia has spread across the South Pacific Islands at most 3000 years ago, and probably much more recently.