Reproductive manipulations of hosts by maternally inherited bacterial endosymbionts often result in an increase in the proportion of infected female hosts in the population. When this involves the conversion of incipient males to genetic or functional females, it presents unique difficulties for symbionts invading hosts with sex-specific reproductive behaviours, such as the autoparasitic Encarsia pergandiella. In sexual forms of this species, female eggs are laid in whitefly nymphs and male eggs are laid in conspecific or heterospecific parasitoids developing within the whitefly cuticle. Further, eggs laid in the 'wrong' host do not ordinarily complete development. This study explored the role of a bacterial symbiont, Cardinium, in manipulating oviposition behaviour in a thelytokous population of E. pergandiella. Oviposition choice was measured by the number and location of eggs deposited by both infected and uninfected adult waSPS in arenas containing equal numbers of hosts suitable for the development of male and female waSPS. Uninfected waSPS included antibiotic-treated female waSPS and (untreated) daughters of antibiotic-treated female waSPS. The choices of waSPS in the thelytokous population treatments were compared with those of a conspecific sexual population. We found that offspring of antibiotic-cured thelytokous waSPS reverted to the behaviour of unmated sexual waSPS, laying their few eggs almost exclusively in hosts appropriate for male eggs. Infected thelytokous waSPS distributed their eggs approximately evenly between host types, much like mated sexual female waSPS. The antibiotic-treated female waSPS exhibited choices intermediate to waSPS in the other two treatments. The change in the observed behaviour appears sufficient to allow invasion and persistence of Cardinium in sexual populations. Lastly, our results suggest a reduction in host discrimination as a possible mechanism by which Cardinium influences this change.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics