Wolbachia in the genus Bicyclus: a forgotten player

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Duplouy, A 
Brattstrom, OT 

Bicyclus butterflies are key species for studies of wing pattern development, phenotypic plasticity, speciation and the genetics of Lepidoptera. One of the key endosymbionts in butterflies, the alpha-Proteobacterium Wolbachia pipientis, is affecting many of these biological processes; however, Bicyclus butterflies have not been investigated systematically as hosts to Wolbachia. In this study, we screen for Wolbachia infection in several Bicyclus species from natural populations across Africa as well as two laboratory populations. Out of the 24 species tested, 19 were found to be infected, and no double infection was found, but both A- and B-supergroup strains colonise this butterfly group. We also show that many of the Wolbachia strains identified in Bicyclus butterflies belong to the ST19 clonal complex. We discuss the importance of our results in regard to routinely screening for Wolbachia when using Bicyclus butterflies as the study organism of research in eco-evolutionary biology.

Symbiosis, Butterfly, Bicyclus anynana, Model organism
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Microbial Ecology
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Springer Verlag
The project was funded by the Academy of Finland (Grant No. 266021 to AD). Fieldwork was funded through grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Helge Ax:son Johnson’s Foundation (to OB).