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Maternally transmitted reproductive parasites such as Wolbachia and Cardinium can drastically reshape reproduction in their hosts. Beyond skewing sex ratios towards females, these microbes can also cause cytoplasmic incompatibility. Wolbachia probably infects two thirds of insects, but far less is known about the occurrence or action of other bacteria with potentially similar effects. In contrast with the two more widespread reproductive parasites, Wolbachia and Spiroplasma, far less is known of infections with Cardinium (Bacteroidetes) and possible consequences in the Diptera. Here, in an extensive survey, 244 dipteran species from 67 genera belonging to the Dolichopodidae, Empididae, and Hybotidae were assessed for the presence of the microbe Cardinium. Although 130 of the species screened tested positive (ca. 53%), the presence of Cardinium could only be confirmed in 10 species (ca. 4%) based on analysis of sequences. Numerous additional sequences were found to be assignable to known or unknown Bacteroidetes.
Considering the known issues concerning specificity of Cardinium primers and the phylogenetic uncertainties surrounding this microbe, the actual prevalence of this symbiont is worthy of further scrutiny. Potential directions for future research on Cardinium-host interactions in Diptera and in general are discussed.