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J Evol Biol. 2006 Jan;19(1):194-202.

Can maternally transmitted endosymbionts facilitate the evolution of haplodiploidy?

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Department of Biology, UCL, London NW1 2HE, UK.


Whilst many invertebrate taxa are haplodiploid, the factors underlying the evolution of haplodiploidy remain unresolved. We investigate theoretically whether haplodiploidy might evolve as an outcome of the co-evolution between maternally inherited endosymbionts and their hosts. First, we substantially extend a recently developed model that involves maternally inherited endosymbionts that kill male offspring by eliminating the paternal genome. We also put forward a new hypothesis and develop a model that involves bacteria that induce cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI). Based on these models, we explore the co-evolutionary events that might occur between hosts and symbionts. We find that both with male-killers and CI-inducing endosymbionts, the hosts are likely to develop increased viability of haploid males, which can be considered a preadaptation to haplodiploidy. In addition, populations with haploidizing male-killers can in some cases evolve directly towards a genetic system of paternal genome elimination, a special form of haplodiploidy. These results are combined with consideration of mechanism and ecology to appraise the likelihood of male-killers and CI inducing bacteria being involved in the evolution of haplodiploidy.

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