The most common effect of the endosymbiont Wolbachia is cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), a form of postzygotic reproductive isolation that occurs in crosses where the male is infected by at least one Wolbachia strain that the female lacks. We revisited two puzzling features of Wolbachia biology: how Wolbachia can invade a new species and spread among populations, and how the association, once established in a host species, can evolve, with emphasis on the possible process of infection loss. These questions are particularly relevant in haplodiploid species, where males develop from unfertilized eggs, and females from fertilized eggs. When CI occurs in such species, fertilized eggs either die (female mortality type: FM), or develop into males (male development type: MD), raising one more question: how transition among CI types is possible. We reached the following conclusions: (1) the FM type is a better invader and should be retained preferentially after a new host is captured; (2) given the assumptions of the models, FM and MD types are selected on neither the bacterial side nor the host side; (3) selective pressures acting on both partners are more or less congruent in the FM type, but divergent in the MD type; (4) host and symbiont evolution can drive infection to extinction for all CI types, but the MD type is more susceptible to the phenomenon; and (5) under realistic conditions, transition from MD to FM type is possible. Finally, all these results suggest that the FM type should be more frequent than the MD type, which is consistent with the results obtained so far in haplodiploids.
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Vol. 57 • No. 2