Speciation parasitic

Postzygotic reproductive isolation barriers can be a direct product of the activity of some parasitic microorganisms (Breeuwer & Werren 1995). The best known and apparently the most widely spread such parasites are bacteria of the Wolbachia genus, which parasitize in the cells of a large number of species of arthropods, especially insects, and in nematodes. It has been estimated that up to 75% of all species of arthropods are infected by them (Stevens, Giordano, & Fialho 2002). One of the many manifestations of the presence of parasites is the formation of reproductive incompatibility between infected males and uninfected females of the host species. Wolbachia cannot be transmitted by male sex cells. Thus, if this parasite finds itself in the body of a male, it has only a very few ways of increasing its inclusive fitness. One of these is induction of reproductive incompatibility between infected males and uninfected females. If an infected male copulates with both infected and uninfected females, only the infected ones produce viable (and infected) progeny and their percentage in the population and thus also the total number of parasites (potential relatives of the parasite that induced the reproductive incompatibility in the male) will increase (Fig. XXI.13). The mechanism of induction of incompatibility is not known in detail. It was originally supposed that the sperm of infected males contain a toxin that, after fertilization, destroys the zygote formed from eggs that do not contain the antitoxin formed by Wolbachia in infected females. The new results, however, suggest that Wolbachia changes the timing of certain steps in the division of the male cell nucleus, which may lead to desynchronization of divisions of pronuclei of male and female origin in a fertilized ovum and therefore disruption of division of the zygote {10891}.
Various strains or various species of Wolbachia frequently exist in the host population and their toxins and antitoxins (or their desynchronization mechanisms) need not be compatible. Thus, if one Wolbachia variant spreads in part of the population and a different one in another part of the population, the incompatibility of their toxins and antitoxins may lead to an impermeable reproductive barrier between the two subpopulations and can facilitate speciation. The fact that Wolbachia is really responsible for the existence of reproduction barriers can be verified by “curing” the relevant host species by administration of antibiotics (Fig. XXI.14). Following this procedure, the mutual reproductive incompatibility of the members of the two populations generally disappears (Mandel, Ross, & Harrison 2001). According to some theories, Wolbachia are the main motor for speciation in insects and also the reason why a great many of its taxa are extremely rich in species (Rokas 2000).

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The classical Darwinian theory of evolution can explain the evolution of adaptive traits only in asexual organisms. The frozen plasticity theory is much more general: It can also explain the origin and evolution of adaptive traits in both asexual and sexual organisms Read more