Population biology of a selfish sex ratio distorting element in a booklouse (Psocodea: Liposcelis)

J Evol Biol. 2019 Aug;32(8):825-832. doi: 10.1111/jeb.13484. Epub 2019 Jun 7.


Arthropods harbour a variety of selfish genetic elements that manipulate reproduction to be preferentially transmitted to future generations. A major ongoing question is to understand how these elements persist in nature. In this study, we examine the population dynamics of an unusual selfish sex ratio distorter in a recently discovered species of booklouse, Liposcelis sp. (Psocodea: Liposcelididae) to gain a better understanding of some of the factors that may affect the persistence of this element. Females that carry the selfish genetic element only ever produce daughters, although they are obligately sexual. These females also only transmit the maternal half of their genome. We performed a replicated population cage experiment, varying the initial frequency of females that harbour the selfish element, and following female frequencies for 20 months. The selfish genetic element persisted in all cages, often reaching very high (and thus severely female-biased) frequencies. Surprisingly, we also found that females that carry the selfish genetic element had much lower fitness than their nondistorter counterparts, with lower lifetime fecundity, slower development and a shorter egg-laying period. We suggest that differential fitness plays a role in the maintenance of the selfish genetic element in this species. We believe that the genetic system in this species, paternal genome elimination, which allows maternal control of offspring sex ratio, may also be important in the persistence of the selfish genetic element, highlighting the need to consider species with diverse ecologies and genetic systems when investigating the effects of sex ratio manipulators on host populations.

Keywords: Wolbachia; Feminization; genetic conflict; paternal genome elimination; population dynamics; selfish genetic element.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Male
  • Neoptera / genetics*
  • Sex Ratio