The Gram-negative α-Proteobacterium Wolbachia pipientis has been described as an obligate endosymbiont in many arthropod species, where it induces a variety of reproductive alterations, including parthenogenesis. Recently, this microorganism has also been detected in the parthenogenetic collembolan Folsomia candida. Here, we confirm the occurrence of the endosymbiont also in two Italian parthenogenetic populations of F. candida using ultrastructural (electron microscopy) and molecular (PCR screening on two bacterial genes) evidence. The strain isolated in the Italian populations has almost-identical gene sequences compared to that previously isolated in other populations of F. candida. In addition, we discovered a population of Folsomia cf. candida, which showed the presence of both males and females. This population is not infected by Wolbachia. A screening of two mitochondrial genes (COI and COII) showed that the bisexual population has high levels of genetic divergence in comparison with the parthenogenetic ones, even suggesting the possibility that it belongs to a different species. Furthermore, the remarkably high levels of genetic divergence between the two parthenogenetic populations suggests a possible influence of Wolbachia on inducing such differentiation, and, in the long term, speciation.
- Molecular evolution