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.
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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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