The effect of Wolbachia versus genetic incompatibilities on reinforcement and speciation

Evolution. 2005 Aug;59(8):1607-19.


Wolbachia is a widespread group of intracellular bacteria commonly found in arthropods. In many insect species, Wolbachia induce a cytoplasmic mating incompatibility (CI). If different Wolbachia infections occur in the same host species, bidirectional CI is often induced. Bidirectional CI acts as a postzygotic isolation mechanism if parapatric host populations are infected with different Wolbachia strains. Therefore, it has been suggested that Wolbachia could promote speciation in their hosts. In this article we investigate theoretically whether Wolbachia-induced bidirectional CI selects for premating isolation and therefore reinforces genetic divergence between parapatric host populations. To achieve this we combined models for Wolbachia dynamics with a well-studied reinforcement model. This new model allows us to compare the effect of bidirectional CI on the evolution of female mating preferences with a situation in which postzygotic isolation is caused by nuclear genetic incompatibilities (NI). We distinguish between nuclear incompatibilities caused by two loci with epistatic interactions, and a single locus with incompatibility among heterozygotes in the diploid phase. Our main findings are: (1) bidirectional CI and single locus NI select for premating isolation with a higher speed and for a wider parameter range than epistatic NI; (2) under certain parameter values, runaway sexual selection leads to the increase of an introduced female preference allele and fixation of its preferred male trait allele in both populations, whereas under others it leads to divergence in the two populations in preference and trait alleles; and (3) bidirectional CI and single locus NI can stably persist up to migration rates that are two times higher than seen for epistatic NI. The latter finding is important because the speed with which mutants at the preference locus spread increases exponentially with the migration rate. In summary, our results show that bidirectional CI selects for rapid premating isolation and so generally support the view that Wolbachia can promote speciation in their hosts.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Insecta / microbiology*
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Reproduction / genetics
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Wolbachia / physiology*