Lampyridae (Coleoptera): A Plethora of Mollicute Associations

Microb Ecol. 1992 Jun;23(2):181-93. doi: 10.1007/BF00172639.


Beetles (Coleoptera) harbor many species ofAcholeplasma andSpiroplasma (division Tenericutes, class Mollicutes). Mollicutes were isolated from guts and/or hemocoels of firefly beetles (Lampyridae) from the United States (Maryland and West Virginia), Ecuador, and Tobago. Firefly beetles were frequent hosts for the group XIV spiroplasma, isolated from Ellychnia corrusca, and the group XIX spiroplasma, isolated fromPhoturis spp. The most unusual feature of the firefly-mollicute association is the carriage of four Mycoplasma species. Recent phylogenetic studies indicate that these species are members of a clade that includes a vertebrate pathogen,Mycoplasma mycoides. The high rate of occurrence ofMycoplasma species (which are, otherwise, infrequent in insects) in lampyrid beetles suggests that the association is significant. The unusual light-producing physiology of lampyrids (which is dependent on large pools of energy) and the production of large amounts of cardenolides from cholesterol (a critical growth factor for many mollicutes) may favor colonization by mollicutes.