Heritable bacterial symbionts are widespread in insects and can have many important effects on host ecology and fitness. Fungal symbionts are also important in shaping their hosts' behavior, interactions, and evolution, but they have been largely overlooked. Experimental tests to determine the relevance of fungal symbionts to their insect hosts are currently extremely rare, and to our knowledge, there have been no such tests for strictly predacious insects. We investigated the fitness consequences for a parasitic wasp (Comperia merceti)ofan inherited fungal symbiont in the Saccharomycotina (Ascomycota) that was long presumed to be a mutualist. In comparisons of wasp lines with and without this symbiont, we found no evidence of mutualism. Instead, there were significant fitness costs to the wasps in the presence of the yeast; infected wasps attacked fewer hosts and had longer development times. We also examined the relative competitive abilities of the larval progeny of infected and uninfected mothers, as well as horizontal transmission of the fungal symbiont among larval wasps that shared a single host cockroach egg case. We found no difference in larval competitive ability when larvae whose infection status differed shared a single host. We did find high rates of horizontal transmission of the fungus, and we suggest that this transmission is likely responsible for the maintenance of this infection in wasp populations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology