Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Male-killing bacteria foiled by butterfly gene

Wolbachia bacterium bacteria (Evolution Research: John Latter / Jorolat)A bacterium that slaughters all the male offspring of the insects it infects has been disarmed by a simple genetic change in a butterfly host within a few decades.

The speed with which this resistance evolved implies that male-killing may have appeared - and disappeared again - much more commonly than previously suspected.

The male-killing bacterium is a strain of Wolbachia, a widespread group of bacteria that are passed from one generation of hosts to the next in eggs, but not sperm.

Since males represent a "dead-end" for the bacteria, they have evolved a variety of tricks to favour females in their hosts, including converting males into females, inducing females to bear only female offspring and, rarely, simply killing male embryos.
The above news release is based on the PLoS Biology open access paper "Evolution of Male-Killer Suppression in a Natural Population"

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