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Title: SOCIAL PARASITISM IN FIRE ANTS (SOLENOPSIS SPP): A POTENTIAL MECHANISM FOR INTERSPECIES TRANSFER OF WOLBACHIA

Author
item DEDINE, FRANCK
item AHRENS, MICHAEL
item CALCATERRA, LUIS
item SHOEMAKER, D.DEWAYNE

Submitted to: Molecular Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/20/2004
Publication Date: 6/1/2005
Citation: Dedine, F., Ahrens, M.E., Calcaterra, L., Shoemaker, D. 2005. Social parasitism in fire ants (solenopsis spp): a potential mechanism for interspecies transfer of wolbachia. Molecular Ecology.14:1543-1548

Interpretive Summary: Wolbachia is a bacterium that infects a wide range of insects and may affect their reproduction. Its abundance in imported fire ant populations in South America is highly variable while it is absent in imported fire ants in the United States. Other well known parasites of fire ants such as decapitating flies and parasitic ants might be a route of transmission of this bacterium between fire ant species. Exploration trips were conducted in different regions of Argentina to detect the presence and identity of the bacterium in fire ants and their parasites. The surveys revealed that most of the decapitating flies examined were infected with four different types or forms of the bacterium. However, these forms were very different to the ones found in fire ants. On the contrary, some of the forms found in parasitic ants were identical to the ones found in fire ants, suggesting that they could play an important role in the transmission of the bacterium.

Technical Abstract: The mechanisms of interspecies transfer of Wolbachia are poorly understood. We surveyed for the presence and sequence identity (wsp gene) of Wolbachia in twelve parasite species of the two fire ants Solenopsis invicta and S. richteri. Two Wolbachia variants infecting Solenopsis daguerrei, an inquiline social parasite, were found to be identical to variants infecting its hosts S. invicta and S. richteri, suggesting possible transfers of Wolbachia between the parasite and its host species. Our data also revealed an unexpectedly high diversity of Wolbachia variants within S. daguerrei: up to eight variants were found within individual, which to our knowledge, is the highest reported number of Wolbachia variants found in a single individual.