Are microbial symbionts involved in the speciation of the gall-inducing aphid, Slavum wertheimae?

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Microbial symbionts have come to be recognized as agents in the speciation of their eukaryote hosts. In this study, we asked if bacterial symbionts are, or were in the past, involved in the speciation of the gall-inducing aphid Slavum wertheimae (Hemiptera: Aphididae). This aphid is specific to the tree Pistacia atlantica, which has a fragmented distribution among mesic and xeric habitats, leading to corresponding fragmentation of the aphid population. Previous studies revealed genetic differentiation among populations of the gall-inducing aphid, suggesting cryptic allopatric speciation. Pistacia atlantica trees show no such variation. By means of diagnostic PCR, we screened several populations of S. wertheimae from mesic and xeric sites in Israel for the presence of nine known aphid symbionts: Arsenophonus, Hamiltonella, Regiella, Rickettsia, Rickettsiella, Serratia, Spiroplasma, Wolbachia, and X-type, as well as Cardinium, known to be a reproductive manipulator. Only one symbiont, Wolbachia, was detected in S. wertheimae. Wolbachia was found in all the aphids of the mesic populations, compared to 26% in the aphids from the xeric populations. Multilocus Sequence typing of Wolbachia revealed new haplotypes in the fbpA and coxA genes in both the mesic and xeric populations. Phylogenetic analysis showed that Wolbachia of S. wertheimae is closely related to Wolbachia strains from assorted hosts, mostly lepidopterans, but only distantly related to Wolbachia strains from other aphid species. We conclude that the cryptic speciation of mesic and xeric populations of S. wertheimae was likely driven by geographical isolation rather than by Wolbachia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-484
Number of pages10
JournalArthropod-Plant Interactions
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Bacterial symbionts
  • Pistacia atlantica
  • Wolbachia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Insect Science


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