Population biology of cytoplasmic incompatibility: Maintenance and spread of Cardinium symbionts in a parasitic wasp

Steve J. Perlman, Suzanne E. Kelly, Martha S. Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Bacteria that cause cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) are perhaps the most widespread parasites of arthropods. CI symbionts cause reproductive failure when infected males mate with females that are either uninfected or infected with a different, incompatible strain. Until recently, CI was known to be caused only by the α-proteobacterium Wolbachia. Here we present the first study of the population biology of Cardinium, a recently discovered symbiont in the Bacteroidetes that causes CI in the parasitic wasp Encarsia pergandiella (Hymenoptera: Aphelinidae). Cardinium occurs at high frequency (∼92%) in the field. Using wasps that were recently collected in the field, we measured parameters that are crucial for understanding how CI spreads and is maintained in its host. CI Cardinium exhibits near-perfect rates of maternal transmission, causes a strong reduction in viable offspring in incompatible crosses, and induces a high fecundity cost, with infected females producing18% fewer offspring in the first 4 days of reproduction. We found no evidence for paternal transmission or horizontal transmission of CI Cardinium through parasitism of an infected conspecific. No evidence for cryptic parthenogenesis in infected females was found, nor was sex allocation influenced by infection. We incorporated our laboratory estimates into a model of CI dynamics. The model predicts a high stable equilibrium, similar to what we observed in the field. Interestingly, our model also predicts a high threshold frequency of CI invasion (20% for males and 24% for females), below which the infection is expected to be lost. We consider how this threshold may be overcome, focusing in particular on the sensitivity of CI models to fecundity costs. Overall our results suggest that the factors governing the dynamics of CI Wolbachia and Cardinium are strikingly similar.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1003-1011
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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