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Removal of a specialization-associated symbiont does not affect aphid fitness


present address: Guyot Hall, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA. E-mail:


Symbioses are ubiquitous in nature. However, these interactions, in particular those which are facultative from the perspective of the host, are still poorly understood. One major question is whether facultative symbionts affect host fitness, and in particular whether they can benefit the host. In pea aphid, host plant specialization was found to be associated with the presence of Pea Aphid U-type Symbiont [Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 270 (2003) S209]. Host and symbiont genomes are normally co-transmitted, making it difficult to determine which is responsible for causing this variation in fitness. Here antibiotic treatment is used to selectively remove the symbiont, thus partitioning symbiont and host genomes. I find that PAUS is not responsible for causing host plant specialization. Examination of aphids in which PAUS presence has been naturally manipulated also supports this conclusion. Additional work will be necessary to determine the forces maintaining this symbiont in host populations, and whether it benefits the host insect under different conditions.