Characterization of the first Wolbachia from the genus Scaptodrosophila, a male-killer from the rainforest species S. claytoni

K. M. Richardson, M. Schiffer, P. A. Ross, J. A. Thia and A. A. Hoffmann,  Insect Science,  2022.

The Scaptodrosophila genus represents a large group of drosophilids with a worldwide distribution and a predominance of species in Australia, but there is little information on the presence and impacts of Wolbachia endosymbionts in this group. Here we describe the first Wolbachia infection from this group, wClay isolated from Scaptodrosophila claytoni (van Klinken), a species from the east coast of Australia. The infection is polymorphic in natural populations, occurring at a frequency of around 6%?10%. wClay causes male killing, producing female-biased lines; most lines showed 100% male killing, though in one line it was < 80%. The lines need to be maintained through the introduction of males unless the infection is removed by tetracycline treatment. wClay is transmitted at a high fidelity (98.6%) through the maternal lineage and has been stable in two laboratory lines across 24 generations, suggesting it is likely to persist in populations. The infection has not been previously described but is closely related to the male-killing Wolbachia recently described from Drosophila pandora based on MLST typing and the wsp gene. Male-killing Wolbachia are likely to be common in drosophilids but remain difficult to detect because the infections can often be at a low frequency.

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