Association between host wing morphology polymorphism and Wolbachia
infection in Vollenhovia emeryi (Hymenoptera: Myrmicinae)
Many eusocial insects, including ants, show complex colony structures,
distributions, and reproductive strategies. In the ant
Vollenhovia emeryi Wheeler (Hymenoptera: Myrmicinae),
queens and males are produced clonally, while sterile workers arise
sexually, unlike other ant species and Hymenopteran insects in general.
Furthermore, there is a wing length polymorphism in the queen caste.
Despite its ecological and evolutionary importance, little is known
about the population dynamics and structure of this ant species, which
may provide insight into its unique reproductive mode and polymorphic
traits. We performed in-depth analyses of ant populations from Korea,
Japan, and North America using three mitochondrial genes (COI, COII, and
Cytb). The long-winged (L) morph is predominant in Korean populations,
and the short-winged (S) morph is very rare. Interestingly, all L morphs
were infected with Wolbachia, while all Korean S morphs lacked
Wolbachia, demonstrating a novel association between a symbiont
and a phenotypic trait. A phylogenetic analysis revealed that the S
morph is derived from the L morph. We propose that the S morph is
associated with potential resistance to Wolbachia infection, and
that Wolbachia infection does not influence clonal reproduction.