The dynamics of sexual conflict over mating rate with endosymbiont infection that affects reproductive phenotypes.
The three species in the Allonemobius socius complex of crickets have recently diverged and radiated across North America. Interestingly, the only barriers to gene flow between these species in zones of secondary contact appear to be associated with fertilization traits - e.g., conspecific sperm precedence and the ability of males to induce females to lay eggs. Other traits, such as the length of female's reproductive tract, may also influence fertilization success and be associated with species boundaries. However, the underlying variation in this duct has not been assessed across populations and species. Moreover, the effects of reproductive parasites like Wolbachia on these morphological features have yet to be addressed, even though its infections are concentrated in reproductive tissues. I evaluated both the natural variation in and the effects of Wolbachia infection on spermathecal duct length among several populations of two species in the Allonemobius socius complex. My results suggest the following: (1) spermathecal duct length varies between species and is associated with species boundaries, (2) there is considerable variation among populations within species, (3) there is a Wolbachia infection-by-population interaction effect on the length of the spermathecal duct, and (4) experimental curing of Wolbachia recovers the uninfected morphology. These findings suggest the following hypotheses: (1) spermathecal duct length, like other fertilization traits in Allonemobius, is evolving rapidly and influences reproductive isolation and (2) Wolbachia-induced modifications of this duct could influence the dynamics of male-female coevolution. Further experiments are needed, however, to explicitly test these latter two hypotheses.