Endosymbiont diversity and prevalence in herbivorous spider mite populations in South-Western Europe

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Bacterial endosymbionts are known as important players of the evolutionary ecology of their hosts. However, their distribution, prevalence and diversity are still largely unexplored. To this aim, we investigated infections by the most common bacterial reproductive manipulators in herbivorous spider mites of South-Western Europe. Across 16 populations belonging to three Tetranychus species, Wolbachia was the most prevalent (ca. 61%), followed by Cardinium (12%-15%), while only few individuals were infected by Rickettsia (0.9%-3%), and none carried Arsenophonus or Spiroplasma. These endosymbionts are here reported for the first time in Tetranychus evansi and Tetranychus ludeni, and showed variable infection frequencies between and within species, with several cases of coinfections. Moreover, Cardinium was more prevalent in Wolbachia-infected individuals, which suggests facilitation between these symbionts. Finally, sequence comparisons revealed no variation of the Wolbachia wsp and Rickettsia gtlA genes, but some diversity of the Cardinium 16S rRNA, both between and within populations of the three mite species. Some of the Cardinium sequences identified belonged to distantly-related clades, and the lack of association between these sequences and spider mite mitotypes suggests repeated host switching of Cardinium. Overall, our results reveal a complex community of symbionts in this system, opening the path for future studies.

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