The impacts of Wolbachia and the microbiome on mate choice in Drosophila melanogaster

J Evol Biol. 2016 Feb;29(2):461-8. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12788. Epub 2015 Nov 28.


Symbionts and parasites can manipulate their hosts' reproduction to their own benefit, profoundly influencing patterns of mate choice and evolution of the host population. Wolbachia is one of the most widespread symbionts among arthropods, and one that alters its hosts' reproduction in diverse and dramatic ways. While we are beginning to appreciate how Wolbachia's extreme manipulations of host reproduction can influence species diversification and reproductive isolation, we understand little about how symbionts and Wolbachia, in particular, may affect intrapopulation processes of mate choice. We hypothesized that the maternally transmitted Wolbachia would increase the attractiveness of its female hosts to further its own spread. We therefore tested the effects of Wolbachia removal and microbiome disruption on female attractiveness and male mate choice among ten isofemale lines of Drosophila melanogaster. We found variable effects of general microbiome disruption on female attractiveness, with indications that bacteria interact with hosts in a line-specific manner to affect female attractiveness. However, we found no evidence that Wolbachia influence female attractiveness or male mate choice among these lines. Although the endosymbiont Wolbachia can greatly alter the reproduction of their hosts in many species, there is no indication that they alter mate choice behaviours in D. melanogaster.

Keywords: cytoplasmic incompatibility; infection; sexual selection; symbiont.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / microbiology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mating Preference, Animal / physiology*
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Symbiosis
  • Wolbachia / physiology*