The Role of Wolbachia Bacteria in Reproductive Incompatibilities and Hybrid Zones of Diabrotica Beetles and Gryllus Crickets
A rickettsial bacterium in the genus Wolbachia is the cause of a unidirectional reproductive incompatibility observed between two major beetle pests of maize, the western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, and the Mexican corn rootworm, D. v. zeae. These subspecies are allopatric except for two known regions of sympatry in Texas and Mexico. We demonstrate that populations of D. v. virgifera, with the exception of two populations in southern Arizona, are infected with a strain of Wolbachia. Populations of D. v. zeae are not infected. Treatment of D. v. virgifera with tetracycline eliminated the Wolbachia and removed the reproductive incompatibility. Similar patterns of reproductive incompatibility exist among taxa of the cricket genus Gryllus. Gryllus assimilis, G. integer, G. ovisopis, G. pennsylvanicus, and G. rubens are infected with Wolbachia whereas G. firmus is usually not. Populations of G. rubens and G. ovisopis carry the same Wolbachia strain, which is distinct from that of G. integer. G. pennsylvanicus is infected with two Wolbachia strains, that found in G. rubens and one unique to G. pennsylvanicus. Moreover, a proportion of G. pennsylvanicus individuals harbors both strains. Wolbachia may have influenced speciation in some members of the genus Gryllus by affecting the degree of hybridization between species. Given that Wolbachia infections are relatively common in insects, it is likely that other insect hybrid zones may be influenced by infections with Wolbachia.