Asexual lineages can derive from sexual ancestors via different mechanisms and at variable rates, which affects the diversity of the asexual population and thereby its ecological success. We investigated the variation and evolution of reproductive systems in Aptinothrips, a genus of grass thrips comprising four species. Extensive population surveys and breeding experiments indicated sexual reproduction in A. elegans, asexuality in A. stylifer and A. karnyi, and both sexual and asexual lineages in A. rufus. Asexuality in A. stylifer and A. rufus coincides with a worldwide distribution, with sexual A. rufus lineages confined to a limited area. Inference of molecular phylogenies and antibiotic treatment revealed different causes of asexuality in different species. Asexuality in A. stylifer and A. karnyi has most likely genetic causes, while it is induced by endosymbionts in A. rufus. Endosymbiont-community characterization revealed presence of Wolbachia, and lack of other bacteria known to manipulate host reproduction. However, only 69% asexual A. rufus females are Wolbachia-infected, indicating that either an undescribed endosymbiont causes asexuality in this species or that Wolbachia was lost in several lineages that remained asexual. These results open new perspectives for studies on the maintenance of mixed sexual and asexual reproduction in natural populations.
Keywords: Asexual reproduction; Wolbachia; endosymbiont; haplodiploidy; hybridization; parthenogenesis.
© 2014 The Author(s). Evolution © 2014 The Society for the Study of Evolution.