Wolbachia infection increases recapture rate of field-released Drosophila melanogaster
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Wolbachia pipientis is a commonly occurring endosymbiont with well-characterised effects on host reproductive biology associated with its infection of the gonads. Wolbachia infections are also widespread in somatic tissues and consequently they have the potential to play a much broader role in host biology. Recently, Wolbachia was shown to alter the locomotion of Drosophila melanogaster in response to food cues in the laboratory. To determine whether this laboratory-based phenotype might translate to real differences for insects in the field, we performed a simple mark-release-recapture experiment with Wolbachia-infected D. melanogaster in a forested habitat. We demonstrate that infected flies are recaptured at twice the rate of uninfected flies, although infection does not affect the distance traveled by those flies recaptured. The differences in recapture could be explained by infection-induced changes in physiology or behavior. If generalizable, such changes may affect the interpretation of behavioral studies for Wolbachia-infected insects and have potential implications for the dynamics of Wolbachia infections in natural populations, including situations where Wolbachia-infected insects are being released for biological control.
KeywordsSymbiont Insect Dispersal Locomotion
This work was supported by a UQ development grant to Elizabeth McGraw. The authors wish to thank Prof Ary Hoffmann for advice on trap line design and Carol Oesch-Lawson for providing assistance in preparing flies for field releases.
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