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  • Writer's pictureAlison Ravenscraft

Paper out in AEM: Caballeronia acquisition and identity affect host bug outcomes

Check out our paper in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, "Development of Common Leaf-Footed Bug Pests Depends on the Presence and Identity of Their Environmentally Acquired Symbionts." In this study, we teamed up with Hunter Lab to investigate the effects of the Caballeronia symbiont on two Leptoglossus leaf footed bug species. Both insects can be agricultural pests, but prior research had not considered the role symbiotic bacteria might play in their biology. Caballeronia is acquired by young Leptoglossus nymphs from the environment - probably from local soil, where it is free-living.

First, we found that Caballeronia vastly improves survival, speeds up development and increases weight gain in both insects, to the extent that this bacterium should probably be considered an obligate symbiont for both species.

Second, we compared insect outcomes when infected with one of four different Caballeronia strains, finding that one strain (Lep1P3 in the figure below) resulted in poorer survival and growth across both insect species. To our knowledge, this is the first documented example of differential benefits conferred by different Caballeronia strains to their host insect. It suggests that acquiring a bacterial partner from the environment (rather than from your parents) could involve an increased risk of acquiring a suboptimal strain. ...But then why do it this way, instead of inherit a symbiont from your parents? We're still working on answering that question!

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