, Volume 100, Issue 3, pp 229-234
Date: 23 Jan 2013

Variable virulence among isolates of Ascosphaera apis: testing the parasite–pathogen hypothesis for the evolution of polyandry in social insects

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The queens of many eusocial insect species are polyandrous. The evolution of polyandry from ancestral monoandry is intriguing because polyandry undermines the kin-selected benefits of high intracolonial relatedness that are understood to have been central to the evolution of eusociality. An accumulating body of evidence suggests that polyandry evolved from monoandry in part because genetically diverse colonies better resist infection by pathogens. However, a core assumption of the “parasite–pathogen hypothesis”, that there is variation in virulence among strains of pathogens, remains largely untested in vivo. Here, we demonstrate variation in virulence among isolates of Ascosphaera apis, the causative organism of chalkbrood disease in its honey bee (Apis mellifera) host. More importantly, we show a pathogen–host genotypic interaction for resistance and pathogenicity. Our findings therefore support the parasite-parasite hypothesis as a factor in the evolution of polyandry among eusocial insects.

Communicated by: Sven Thatje