Male-killing (MK) bacteria are vertically transmitted endosymbionts that selectively kill the male offspring of their hosts. Simple mathematical models describe the infection dynamics using two parameters, the bacterial transmission rate and a fitness compensation for siblings of killed males. These models cannot explain two phenomena that have been observed in nature: the persistence of extreme MK causing all-female broods, and the coexistence of two different strains of MK bacteria in the same host population. In the present study, we extend the simple MK models and investigate theoretically the effects of sibmating on the infection dynamics. We demonstrate analytically that, in general, sibmating reduces MK prevalence, and can even cause its extinction. As a special case of this finding, we show that sibmating allows a stable coexistence between no infection and extreme MK. Furthermore, we performed computer simulations and showed that, depending on male mating capacity, a stable coexistence of two strains is possible if sibmating occurs but is below a threshold. The results suggest that sibmating might be an important factor for understanding the infection dynamics of MK bacteria.
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Vol. 63 • No. 10