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Keywords:

  • Cardinium;
  • endosymbiosis;
  • reproductive parasite;
  • spider

Abstract

Spiders have recently emerged as important diversity hot spots for endosymbiotic bacteria, but the consequences of these symbiotic interactions are largely unknown. In this article, we examined the evolutionary history and effect of the intracellular bacterium Cardinium hertigii in the marbled cellar spider Holocnemus pluchei. We showed that Cardinium infection is primarily transmitted in spider populations maternally via egg cytoplasm, with 100% of the progeny from infected mothers being also infected. Examination of a co-inherited marker, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), revealed that Cardinium infection is associated with a wide diversity of mtDNA haplotypes, showing that the interaction between Cardinium and H. pluchei has a long-term evolutionary dimension and that horizontal transmission among individuals could also occur. Although Cardinium is well known to exert sex ratio distortion or cytoplasmic incompatibility in various arthropod hosts, we show, however, that Cardinium does not interact with the reproductive biology of H. pluchei. A field survey shows a clear geographical structuring of Cardinium infection, with a marked gradual variation of infection frequencies from ca. 0.80 to 0. We discuss different mechanistic and evolutionary explanations for these results as well as their consequences for spider phenotypes. Notably, we suggest that Cardinium can either behave as a neutral cytoplasmic element within H. pluchei or exhibit a context-dependent effect, depending on the environmental conditions.