Occasional males in parthenogenetic populations of Asobara japonica (Hymenoptera: Braconidae): low Wolbachia titer or incomplete coadaptation?
Wolbachia are endosymbiotic bacteria known to manipulate the reproduction of their hosts. Some populations of the parasitoid wasp Asobara japonica are infected with Wolbachia and reproduce parthenogenetically, while other populations are not infected and reproduce sexually. Wolbachia-infected A. japonica females regularly produce small numbers of male offspring. Because all females in the field are infected and infected females are not capable of sexual reproduction, male production seems to be maladaptive. We investigated why these females nevertheless produce males. We tested three hypotheses: high rearing temperatures could result in higher offspring sex ratios (more males), low Wolbachia titer of the mother could lead to higher offspring sex ratios and/or the Wolbachia infection is of relatively recent origin and not enough time has passed to allow complete coadaptation between Wolbachia and host. In all, 33% of the Wolbachia-infected females produced males and 56% of these males were also infected with Wolbachia. Neither offspring sex ratio nor male infection frequency was significantly affected by rearing temperature or Wolbachia concentration of the mother. The mitochondrial DNA sequence of one of the uninfected populations was identical to that of two of the infected populations. Therefore, the initial Wolbachia infection of A. japonica must have occurred recently. Mitochondrial sequence variation among the infected populations suggests that the spread of Wolbachia through the host populations involved horizontal transmission. We conclude that the occasional male production by Wolbachia-infected females is most likely a maladaptive side effect of incomplete coevolution between symbiont and host in this relatively young infection.