Parasitic mites as part-time bodyguards of a host wasp.
ABSTRACT: Some bees and wasps that host mites have peculiar pocket-like structures called acarinaria. These have long been considered as morphological adaptations to securely transfer beneficial mites into nests, and thus are thought to be the product of a mutualistic relationship. However, there has been little compelling evidence to support this hypothesis. We demonstrated that the parasitic mite Ensliniella parasitica, which uses acarinaria, increases the reproductive success of its host wasp Allodynerus delphinalis by protecting it from parasitoid wasps. Every time the parasitoid Melittobia acasta accessed a prepupal or pupal wasp host cell, adult mites attacked it, continuously clinging to it and possibly piercing the intersegmental membrane of the parasitoid with their chelicerae. Subsequent mortality of the parasitoid depended on the number of attacking mites: an average of six mites led to a 70% chance of mortality, and 10 mites led to a 100% chance of mortality. In this way, parent mites protect the food source (juvenile wasps) for themselves and ultimately for their offspring. We propose that wasps evolved acarinaria to maintain this protective guarding behaviour.
Project description:Parasitoid diversity in terrestrial ecosystems is enormous. However, ecological processes underpinning their evolutionary diversification in association with other trophic groups are still unclear. Specialisation and interdependencies among chalcid wasps that reproduce on Ficus presents an opportunity to investigate the ecology of a multi-trophic system that includes parasitoids. Here we estimate the host-plant species specificity of a parasitoid fig wasp genus that attacks the galls of non-pollinating pteromalid and pollinating agaonid fig wasps. We discuss the interactions between parasitoids and the Ficus species present in a forest patch of Uganda in context with populations in Southern Africa. Haplotype networks are inferred to examine intraspecific mitochondrial DNA divergences and phylogenetic approaches used to infer putative species relationships. Taxonomic appraisal and putative species delimitation by molecular and morphological techniques are compared. Results demonstrate that a parasitoid fig wasp population is able to reproduce on at least four Ficus species present in a patch. This suggests that parasitoid fig wasps have relatively broad host-Ficus species ranges compared to fig wasps that oviposit internally. Parasitoid fig wasps did not recruit on all available host plants present in the forest census area and suggests an important ecological consequence in mitigating fitness trade-offs between pollinator and Ficus reproduction. The extent to which parasitoid fig wasps exert influence on the pollination mutualism must consider the fitness consequences imposed by the ability to interact with phenotypes of multiple Ficus and fig wasps species, but not equally across space and time.
Project description:Insects are known to host a wide variety of beneficial microbes that are fundamental to many aspects of their biology and have substantially shaped their evolution. Notably, parasitoid wasps have repeatedly evolved beneficial associations with viruses that enable developing wasps to survive as parasites that feed from other insects. Ongoing genomic sequencing efforts have revealed that most of these virus-derived entities are fully integrated into the genomes of parasitoid wasp lineages, representing endogenous viral elements (EVEs) that retain the ability to produce virus or virus-like particles within wasp reproductive tissues. All documented parasitoid EVEs have undergone similar genomic rearrangements compared to their viral ancestors characterized by viral genes scattered across wasp genomes and specific viral gene losses. The recurrent presence of viral endogenization and genomic reorganization in beneficial virus systems identified to date suggest that these features are crucial to forming heritable alliances between parasitoid wasps and viruses. Here, our genomic characterization of a mutualistic poxvirus associated with the wasp Diachasmimorpha longicaudata, known as Diachasmimorpha longicaudata entomopoxvirus (DlEPV), has uncovered the first instance of beneficial virus evolution that does not conform to the genomic architecture shared by parasitoid EVEs with which it displays evolutionary convergence. Rather, DlEPV retains the exogenous viral genome of its poxvirus ancestor and the majority of conserved poxvirus core genes. Additional comparative analyses indicate that DlEPV is related to a fly pathogen and contains a novel gene expansion that may be adaptive to its symbiotic role. Finally, differential expression analysis during virus replication in wasps and fly hosts demonstrates a unique mechanism of functional partitioning that allows DlEPV to persist within and provide benefit to its parasitoid wasp host.
Project description:For insects known as parasitoid wasps, successful development as a parasite results in the death of the host insect. As a result of this lethal interaction, wasps and their hosts have coevolved strategies to gain an advantage in this evolutionary arms race. Although normally considered to be strict pathogens, some viruses have established persistent infections within parasitoid wasp lineages and are beneficial to wasps during parasitism. Heritable associations between viruses and parasitoid wasps have evolved independently multiple times, but most of these systems remain largely understudied with respect to viral origin, transmission and replication strategies of the virus, and interactions between the virus and host insects. Here, we report a detailed characterization of Diachasmimorpha longicaudata entomopoxvirus (DlEPV), a poxvirus found within the venom gland of Diachasmimorpha longicaudata wasps. Our results show that DlEPV exhibits similar but distinct transmission and replication dynamics compared to those of other parasitoid viral elements, including vertical transmission of the virus within wasps, as well as virus replication in both female wasps and fruit fly hosts. Functional assays demonstrate that DlEPV is highly virulent within fly hosts, and wasps without DlEPV have severely reduced parasitism success compared to those with a typical viral load. Taken together, the data presented in this study illustrate a novel case of beneficial virus evolution, in which a virus of unique origin has undergone convergent evolution with other viral elements associated with parasitoid wasps to provide an analogous function throughout parasitism.IMPORTANCE Viruses are generally considered to be disease-causing agents, but several instances of beneficial viral elements have been identified in insects called parasitoid wasps. These virus-derived entities are passed on through wasp generations and enhance the success of the wasps' parasitic life cycle. Many parasitoid-virus partnerships studied to date exhibit common features among independent cases of this phenomenon, including a mother-to-offspring route of virus transmission, a restricted time and location for virus replication, and a positive effect of virus activity on wasp survival. Our characterization of Diachasmimorpha longicaudata entomopoxvirus (DlEPV), a poxvirus found in Diachasmimorpha longicaudata parasitoid wasps, represents a novel example of beneficial virus evolution. Here, we show that DlEPV exhibits functional similarities to known parasitoid viral elements that support its comparable role during parasitism. Our results also demonstrate unique differences that suggest DlEPV is more autonomous than other long-term viral associations described in parasitoid wasps.
Project description:<h4>Unlabelled</h4>Insects commonly harbor facultative bacterial endosymbionts, such as Wolbachia and Spiroplasma species, that are vertically transmitted from mothers to their offspring. These endosymbiontic bacteria increase their propagation by manipulating host reproduction or by protecting their hosts against natural enemies. While an increasing number of studies have reported endosymbiont-mediated protection, little is known about the mechanisms underlying this protection. Here, we analyze the mechanisms underlying protection from parasitoid wasps in Drosophila melanogaster mediated by its facultative endosymbiont Spiroplasma poulsonii Our results indicate that S. poulsonii exerts protection against two distantly related wasp species, Leptopilina boulardi and Asobara tabida S. poulsonii-mediated protection against parasitoid wasps takes place at the pupal stage and is not associated with an increased cellular immune response. In this work, we provide three important observations that support the notion that S. poulsonii bacteria and wasp larvae compete for host lipids and that this competition underlies symbiont-mediated protection. First, lipid quantification shows that both S. poulsonii and parasitoid wasps deplete D. melanogaster hemolymph lipids. Second, the depletion of hemolymphatic lipids using the Lpp RNA interference (Lpp RNAi) construct reduces wasp success in larvae that are not infected with S. poulsonii and blocks S. poulsonii growth. Third, we show that the growth of S. poulsonii bacteria is not affected by the presence of the wasps, indicating that when S. poulsonii is present, larval wasps will develop in a lipid-depleted environment. We propose that competition for host lipids may be relevant to endosymbiont-mediated protection in other systems and could explain the broad spectrum of protection provided.<h4>Importance</h4>Virtually all insects, including crop pests and disease vectors, harbor facultative bacterial endosymbionts. They are vertically transmitted from mothers to their offspring, and some protect their host against pathogens. Here, we studied the mechanism of protection against parasitoid wasps mediated by the Drosophila melanogaster endosymbiont Spiroplasma poulsonii Using genetic manipulation of the host, we provide strong evidence supporting the hypothesis that competition for host lipids underlies S. poulsonii-mediated protection against parasitoid wasps. We propose that lipid competition-based protection may not be restricted to Spiroplasma bacteria but could also apply other endosymbionts, notably Wolbachia bacteria, which can suppress human disease-causing viruses in insect hosts.
Project description:Isoprene is the most abundant volatile compound emitted by vegetation. It influences air chemistry and is part of plant defense against abiotic stresses. However, whether isoprene influences biotic interactions between plants and other organisms has not been investigated to date. Here we show a new effect of isoprene, namely its influence on interactions between plants and insects. Herbivory induces the release of plant volatiles that attract the herbivore's enemies, such as parasitic wasps, as a kind of bodyguard. We used transgenic isoprene-emitting Arabidopsis plants in behavioral, chemical, and electrophysiological studies to investigate the effects of isoprene on ecological interactions in 2 tritrophic systems. We demonstrate that isoprene is perceived by the chemoreceptors of the parasitic wasp Diadegma semiclausum and interferes with the attraction of this parasitic wasp to volatiles from herbivore-infested plants. We verified this repellent effect on D. semiclausum female wasps by adding external isoprene to the volatile blend of wild-type plants. In contrast, the antennae of the parasitic wasp Cotesia rubecula do not perceive isoprene and the behavior of this wasp was not altered by isoprene emission. In addition, the performance of the 2 examined lepidopteran herbivores (Pieris rapae and Plutella xylostella) was not affected by isoprene emission. Therefore, attraction of parasitic wasps to host-infested herbaceous plants in the neighborhood of high isoprene emitters, such as poplar or willow, may be hampered by the isoprene emission that repels plant bodyguards.
Project description:The maternal rearing environment can affect offspring fitness or phenotype indirectly via 'maternal effects' and can also influence a mother's behaviour and fecundity directly. However, it remains uncertain how the effects of the maternal rearing environment cascade through multiple trophic levels, such as in plant-insect herbivore-natural enemy interactions. Pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum) show differential fitness on host legume species, while generalist aphid parasitoids can show variable fitness on different host aphid species, suggesting that maternal effects could operate in a plant-aphid-parasitoid system. We tested whether the maternal rearing environment affected the behaviour and fitness of aphids by rearing aphids on two plant hosts that were either the same as or different from those experienced by the mothers. A similar approach was used to test the behaviour and fitness of parasitoid wasps in response to maternal rearing environment. Here, the host environment was manipulated at the plant or plant and aphid trophic levels for parasitoid wasps. We also quantified the quality of host plants for aphids and host aphids for parasitoid wasps. In choice tests, aphids and parasitoid wasps had no preference for the plant nor plant and aphid host environment on which they were reared. Aphid offspring experienced 50.8% higher intrinsic rates of population growth, 43.4% heavier offspring and lived 14.9% longer when feeding on bean plants compared to aphids feeding on pea plants, with little effect of the maternal rearing environment. Plant tissue nitrogen concentration varied by 21.3% in response to aphid mothers' rearing environment, and these differences correlated with offspring fitness. Maternal effects in parasitoid wasps were only observed when both the plant and aphid host environment was changed: wasp offspring were heaviest by 10.9-73.5% when both they and their mothers developed in bean-reared pea aphids. Also, parasitoid wasp fecundity was highest by 38.4% when offspring were oviposited in the maternal rearing environment. These findings indicate that maternal effects have a relatively small contribution towards the outcome of plant-aphid-parasitoid interactions.
Project description:Parasitoid wasps are among the most speciose animals, yet have relatively few available genomic resources. We report a draft genome assembly of the wasp Diachasma alloeum (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), a host-specific parasitoid of the apple maggot fly Rhagoletis pomonella (Diptera: Tephritidae), and a developing model for understanding how ecological speciation can "cascade" across trophic levels. Identification of gene content confirmed the overall quality of the draft genome, and we manually annotated ?400 genes as part of this study, including those involved in oxidative phosphorylation, chemosensation, and reproduction. Through comparisons to model hymenopterans such as the European honeybee Apis mellifera and parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis, as well as a more closely related braconid parasitoid Microplitis demolitor, we identified a proliferation of transposable elements in the genome, an expansion of chemosensory genes in parasitoid wasps, and the maintenance of several key genes with known roles in sexual reproduction and sex determination. The D. alloeum genome will provide a valuable resource for comparative genomics studies in Hymenoptera as well as specific investigations into the genomic changes associated with ecological speciation and transitions to asexuality.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>We challenge the oft-repeated claim that the beetles (Coleoptera) are the most species-rich order of animals. Instead, we assert that another order of insects, the Hymenoptera, is more speciose, due in large part to the massively diverse but relatively poorly known parasitoid wasps. The idea that the beetles have more species than other orders is primarily based on their respective collection histories and the relative availability of taxonomic resources, which both disfavor parasitoid wasps. Though it is unreasonable to directly compare numbers of described species in each order, the ecology of parasitic wasps-specifically, their intimate interactions with their hosts-allows for estimation of relative richness.<h4>Results</h4>We present a simple logical model that shows how the specialization of many parasitic wasps on their hosts suggests few scenarios in which there would be more beetle species than parasitic wasp species. We couple this model with an accounting of what we call the "genus-specific parasitoid-host ratio" from four well-studied genera of insect hosts, a metric by which to generate extremely conservative estimates of the average number of parasitic wasp species attacking a given beetle or other insect host species.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Synthesis of our model with data from real host systems suggests that the Hymenoptera may have 2.5-3.2×?more species than the Coleoptera. While there are more described species of beetles than all other animals, the Hymenoptera are almost certainly the larger order.
Project description:Parasitoid wasps of the order Hymenoptera, the most diverse groups of animals, are important natural enemies of arthropod hosts in natural ecosystems and can be used in biological control. To date, only one neuropeptidome of a parasitoid wasp, Nasonia vitripennis, has been identified. This study aimed to identify more neuropeptides of parasitoid wasps, by using a well-established workflow that was previously adopted for predicting insect neuropeptide sequences. Based on publicly accessible databases, totally 517 neuropeptide precursors from 24 parasitoid wasp species were identified; these included five neuropeptides (CNMamide, FMRFamide-like, ITG-like, ion transport peptide-like and orcokinin B) that were identified for the first time in parasitoid wasps, to our knowledge. Next, these neuropeptides from parasitoid wasps were compared with those from other insect species. Phylogenetic analysis suggested the divergence of AST-CCC within Hymenoptera. Further, the encoding patterns of CAPA/PK family genes were found to be different between Hymenoptera species and other insect species. Some neuropeptides that were not found in some parasitoid superfamilies (e.g., sulfakinin), or considerably divergent between different parasitoid superfamilies (e.g., sNPF) might be related to distinct physiological processes in the parasitoid life. Information of neuropeptide sequences in parasitoid wasps can be useful for better understanding the phylogenetic relationships of Hymenoptera and further elucidating the physiological functions of neuropeptide signaling systems in parasitoid wasps.
Project description:Among the most common parasites of Drosophila in nature are parasitoid wasps, which lay their eggs in fly larvae and pupae. D. melanogaster larvae can mount a cellular immune response against wasp eggs, but female wasps inject venom along with their eggs to block this immune response. Genetic variation in flies for immune resistance against wasps and genetic variation in wasps for virulence against flies largely determines the outcome of any fly-wasp interaction. Interestingly, up to 90% of the variation in fly resistance against wasp parasitism has been linked to a very simple mechanism: flies with increased constitutive blood cell (hemocyte) production are more resistant. However, this relationship has not been tested for Drosophila hosts outside of the melanogaster subgroup, nor has it been tested across a diversity of parasitoid wasp species and strains. We compared hemocyte levels in two fly species from different subgroups, D. melanogaster and D. suzukii, and found that D. suzukii constitutively produces up to five times more hemocytes than D. melanogaster. Using a panel of 24 parasitoid wasp strains representing fifteen species, four families, and multiple virulence strategies, we found that D. suzukii was significantly more resistant to wasp parasitism than D. melanogaster. Thus, our data suggest that the relationship between hemocyte production and wasp resistance is general. However, at least one sympatric wasp species was a highly successful infector of D. suzukii, suggesting specialists can overcome the general resistance afforded to hosts by excessive hemocyte production. Given that D. suzukii is an emerging agricultural pest, identification of the few parasitoid wasps that successfully infect D. suzukii may have value for biocontrol.