C. A. Hamm, C. A. Handley, A. Pike, M. L. Forister, J. A. Fordyce, C. C. Nice
Journal of Insect Science 14 (6), 1-8, (1 January 2014) https://doi.org/10.1673/031.014.06
KEYWORDS: captive rearing, endangered species, endosymbiont, translocation
Conservation of at-risk species requires multi-faceted and carefully-considered management approaches to be successful. For arthropods, the presence of endosymbiotic bacteria, such as Wolbachia (Rickettsiales: Rickettsiaceae), may complicate management plans and exacerbate the challenges faced by conservation managers. Wolbachia poses a substantial and underappreciated threat to the conservation of arthropods because infection may induce a number of phenotypic effects, most of which are considered deleterious to the host population. In this study, the prevalence of Wolbachia infection in lepidopteran species of conservation concern was examined. Using standard molecular techniques, 22 species of Lepidoptera were screened, of which 19 were infected with Wolbachia. This rate is comparable to that observed in insects as a whole. However, this is likely an underestimate because geographic sampling was not extensive and may not have included infected segments of the species' ranges. Wolbachia infections may be particularly problematic for conservation management plans that incorporate captive propagation or translocation. Inadvertent introduction of Wolbachia into uninfected populations or introduction of a new strain may put these populations at greater risk for extinction. Further sampling to investigate the geographic extent of Wolbachia infections within species of conservation concern and experiments designed to determine the nature of the infection phenotype(s) are necessary to manage the potential threat of infection.