Viruses and Taxonomy

Parasitoid Wasps

Pupae of Cotesia Parasitoid Wasps. The adults inject the caterpillar with a polydnavirus that destroys the immune system.

The incorporation of polydnavirus genes into the chromosomes of some Hymenopteran parasitoids is a remarkable example of a mutualistic interaction between two species evolving into a single organism. As discussed in a previous post, the polydnavirus attacks the immune system of the parasitoid’s host allowing the parasitoid egg to grow and develop without interference from its host’s immune system. Once incorporated into the genome, the polydnavirus genes have evolved with the evolution of the parasitoid. Efficient utilization of a new host insect may require mutations in polydnavirus genes that are more effective in immune system suppression. Polydnavirus evolution results in closely related species of parasitoids having polydnavirus genes with slightly different sequences. It is possible to use the gene sequence of the polydnavirus as a taxonomic marker and to determine the pattern of relatedness among species. A region of one of the polydnavirus genes, Cys-d9.2, was invariate within species and could be used to uniquely identify nine Hymenopteran parasitoids in the genus Hyposoter. Molecular biology provides new tools for studying many insects and insect groups.

VICTORIA G. POOK, ERIC G. CHAPMAN, DANIEL H. JANZEN, WINNIE HALLWACHS, M. ALEX SMITH & MICHAEL J. SHARKEY 2015. Polydnavirus gene provides accurate identification of species in the genus Hyposoter. Insect Conservation and Diversity 8: 348–358.
doi: 10.1111/icad.12118

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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One Response to Viruses and Taxonomy

  1. Pingback: Viruses and Taxonomy | Entomo Planet

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