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Thursday, October 20, 2016, 02:00pm - 03:00pm
Contact schaffer@austin.utexas.edu

TITLE: "Intraspecific genetic variation in hosts affects regulation of obligate heritable symbionts"

Symbiosis between animals and bacteria enables the exploitation of new ecological niches and promotes diversification. Many insects have obligate heritable bacteria that provision nutrients enabling new lifestyles, such as sap-feeding. Hosts must regulate symbiont populations, but optimal regulation may be affected by the need to respond to the ongoing evolution of symbionts, which experience high levels of genetic drift and potential selection for selfish traits. Using the model system for obligate symbiosis, the pea aphid and its heritable bacterial symbiont Buchnera aphidicola, we address the extent of variation in host regulation of symbiont populations and find that pea aphids have extensive genetic variation in the ability to regulate Buchnera numbers. In addition, higher abundance of Buchnera is associated with lower reproductive rates in aphid hosts. Thus, we provide experimental evidence demonstrating that genetic variation in hosts affects regulation of symbiosis, suggesting fitness costs and potential negative consequences of obligate symbiosis. Our work shows that obligate symbiosis is not static but instead is subject to short-term evolutionary dynamics, potentially reflecting coevolutionary interactions between host and symbiont.

Location: NHB 1.720