Open Access Research article

Comparisons of host mitochondrial, nuclear and endosymbiont bacterial genes reveal cryptic fig wasp species and the effects of Wolbachia on host mtDNA evolution and diversity

Xiao-Jing Sun12, Jin-Hua Xiao1, James M Cook3, Gui Feng12 and Da-Wei Huang14*

Author Affiliations

1 Key laboratory of Zoology Systematics and Evolution, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100101, PR China

2 Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100039, PR China

3 School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Reading, Berkshire, RG6 6BX, UK

4 College of Life Sciences, Hebei University, Baoding, 071002, PR China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:86  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-86

Published: 1 April 2011



Figs and fig-pollinating wasp species usually display a highly specific one-to-one association. However, more and more studies have revealed that the "one-to-one" rule has been broken. Co-pollinators have been reported, but we do not yet know how they evolve. They may evolve from insect speciation induced or facilitated by Wolbachia which can manipulate host reproduction and induce reproductive isolation. In addition, Wolbachia can affect host mitochondrial DNA evolution, because of the linkage between Wolbachia and associated mitochondrial haplotypes, and thus confound host phylogeny based on mtDNA. Previous research has shown that fig wasps have the highest incidence of Wolbachia infection in all insect taxa, and Wolbachia may have great influence on fig wasp biology. Therefore, we look forward to understanding the influence of Wolbachia on mitochondrial DNA evolution and speciation in fig wasps.


We surveyed 76 pollinator wasp specimens from nine Ficus microcarpa trees each growing at a different location in Hainan and Fujian Provinces, China. We found that all wasps were morphologically identified as Eupristina verticillata, but diverged into three clades with 4.22-5.28% mtDNA divergence and 2.29-20.72% nuclear gene divergence. We also found very strong concordance between E. verticillata clades and Wolbachia infection status, and the predicted effects of Wolbachia on both mtDNA diversity and evolution by decreasing mitochondrial haplotypes.


Our study reveals that the pollinating wasp E. verticillata on F. microcarpa has diverged into three cryptic species, and Wolbachia may have a role in this divergence. The results also indicate that Wolbachia strains infecting E. verticillata have likely resulted in selective sweeps on host mitochondrial DNA.