The impact of Wolbachia, male age and mating history on cytoplasmic incompatibility and sperm transfer in Drosophila simulans

Authors

  • Z. A. Awrahman,

    1. Centre for Ecology and Conservation, Biosciences, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall, UK
    2. Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland
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  • F. Champion de Crespigny,

    1. Centre for Ecology and Conservation, Biosciences, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall, UK
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  • N. Wedell

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Ecology and Conservation, Biosciences, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall, UK
    • Correspondence: Nina Wedell, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, Biosciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn TR10 9EZ, Cornwall, UK. Tel.: +44 1326 37 1863; fax: +44 1326 37 1859; e-mail: n.wedell@exeter.ac.uk

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Abstract

Most insects harbour a variety of maternally inherited endosymbionts, the most widespread being Wolbachia pipientis that commonly induce cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) and reduced hatching success in crosses between infected males and uninfected females. High temperature and increasing male age are known to reduce the level of CI in a variety of insects. In Drosophila simulans, infected males have been shown to mate at a higher rate than uninfected males. By examining the impact of mating rate independent of age, this study investigates whether a high mating rate confers an advantage to infected males through restoring their compatibility with uninfected females over and above the effect of age. The impact of Wolbachia infection, male mating rate and age on the number of sperm transferred to females during copulation and how it relates to CI expression was also assessed. As predicted, we found that reproductive compatibility was restored faster in males that mate at higher rate than that of low mating and virgin males, and that the effect of mating history was over and above the effect of male age. Nonvirgin infected males transferred fewer sperm than uninfected males during copulation, and mating at a high rate resulted in the transfer of fewer sperm per mating irrespective of infection status. These results indicate that the advantage to infected males of mating at a high rate is through restoration of reproductive compatibility with uninfected females, whereas uninfected males appear to trade off the number of sperm transferred per mating with female encounter rate and success in sperm competition. This study highlights the importance Wolbachia may play in sexual selection by affecting male reproductive strategies.

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