Symbionts in societies: the biology of Wolbachia in social insects

Treanor, David (2018) Symbionts in societies: the biology of Wolbachia in social insects. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Heritable bacterial symbionts are astonishingly common in insects, yet relatively little is known about how heritable symbionts influence the biology of social insects such as ants, bees, wasps and termites. In this thesis I investigate various aspects of the biology of heritable symbionts in social insects, principally focusing on the relationship between ants, the largest group of social insects, and the symbiont Wolbachia, the archetypal reproductive parasite. In Chapter 1, I begin by reviewing the biology of Wolbachia. In Chapter 2, I show that the sex, caste and size of an individual’s colony determine the likelihood that it is infected with Wolbachia, and I provide correlational evidence that Wolbachia provides small increases in colony productivity in the ant Temnothorax crassispinus. In Chapter 3, I combine colony censuses and antibiotic treatment experiments, finding that Wolbachia neither distorts host sex ratios nor causes strong female mortality type mating incompatibilities in the ant Myrmica scabrinodis. In Chapter 4, I critically evaluate the theory that heritable symbionts should evolve to manipulate caste-fate in social insects, outlining three distinct evolutionary scenarios under which this might occur. In Chapter 5, I provide evidence for negative interactions between Wolbachia and both Spiroplasma and Arsenophonus in M. scabrinodis hosts, and I show that multiple unrelated strains of both Wolbachia and Spiroplasma occur across the Palaearctic. In Chapter 6, I show that one of two strains of Wolbachia infecting the ant Monomorium pharaonis was acquired by hybrid introgression. In Chapter 7, I find that ant species with limited queen dispersal are almost twice as likely to be infected with Wolbachia relative to other ant species, supporting the hypothesis that population structure influences the invasion ability of Wolbachia. Finally, in Chapter 8, I discuss the broader significance of my findings.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Biology and Environmental Science
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology > QL0360 Invertebrates > QL0434 Arthropoda > QL0463 Insects
Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR0075 Bacteria
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2018 16:17
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2018 16:17

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