Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Cytoplasmic incompatibility between old and new world populations of a tramp ant.

Abstract

Reproductive manipulation by endosymbiotic Wolbachia can cause unequal inheritance, allowing the manipulator to spread and potentially impacting evolutionary dynamics in infected hosts. Tramp and invasive species are excellent models to study the dynamics of host-Wolbachia associations because introduced populations often diverge in their microbiomes after colonizing new habitats, resulting in infection polymorphisms between native and introduced populations. Ants are the most abundant group of insects on earth, and numerous ant species are classified as highly invasive. However, little is known about the role of Wolbachia in these ecologically dominant insects. Here, we provide the first description of reproductive manipulation by Wolbachia in an ant. We show that Old and New World populations of the cosmotropic tramp ant Cardiocondyla obscurior harbor distinct Wolbachia strains, and that only the Old World strain manipulates host reproduction by causing cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI) in hybrid crosses. By uncovering a symbiont-induced mechanism of reproductive isolation in a social insect, our study provides a novel perspective on the biology of tramp ants and introduces a new system for studying the evolutionary consequences of CI.