Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp 593–607 | Cite as

Distribution and fitness effects of the son-killer bacterium inNasonia

  • Michael T. Balas
  • Michelle H. Lee
  • John H. Werren


Maternally inherited microorganisms that kill male (but not female) progeny are widespread in nature. Three hypotheses have been proposed for the evolution of male-killing microorganisms: inbreeding reduction, release of resources to remaining females and inoculum for horizontal transmission. The sonkiller bacterium,Arsenophonus nasoniae, is a maternally inherited bacterium that causes lethality of male embryos of infected females in the parasitoid wasp,Nasonia vitripennis. In this paper we describe the geographical distribution and frequency of the son-killer bacterium in North American populations ofN. vitripennis andNasonia longicornis. We tested the resource release hypothesis using the body size measurements of infected and uninfected females from natural populations. No evidence was found for a fitness increase of females infected with the bacterium compared to uninfected females. We propose a modification of the existing models, termed the ‘incremental gain’ hypothesis. According to this model, the bacteria are maintained in host populations due to horizontal transmission and male killing provides an incremental gain in the fitness of infected females relative to females infected with non-male-killing bacteria.


parasitoid wasp sex ratio distorter male-killing microorganism Nasonia vitripennis Nasonia longicornis Nasonia giraulti 


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Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael T. Balas
    • 1
  • Michelle H. Lee
    • 1
  • John H. Werren
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA

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