Incidence of Infection of Wolbachia Bacteria in Botanophila Flies
Dr. Thomas Bultman
Botanophila flies are thought to be pollinating predators of the sexual forms of endophytic fungi in the genus Epichloë. When flies visit the fruiting bodies of the fungus, they oviposit on the surface of the stroma, then feed, and defecate along the whole length of the stroma. The spermatia pass through the gut of the fly unharmed and fertilize the next stroma of the opposite mating type that the fly lands on to oviposit, feed, and defecate. In this study, I screened samples of Botanophila fly larvae from the USA and Europe for the presence of the sexual parasite, Wolbachia, which could lead to dramatic alterations of the sex ratios and fertility rates in fly populations when present. I found a 50% overall infection rate (12 out of 24 samples were infected); however, a majority of these were from one site in the USA (9 out of 12 samples from the USA were infected). Should this infection be prevalent in an area, it may have wide reaching effects on both the fly populations and the Epichloë fungus that the flies cross-fertilize, as well as the grass hosts of Epichloë.
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