[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Author Summary
Wolbachia are bacteria that infect millions of insect species worldwide. Wolbachia aren't infectious, but are maternally inherited symbionts passed from mother to offspring. To infect a host population, Wolbachia behave as reproductive parasites and alter the host reproductive system in a manner that increases infected female reproductive success. Some strains of Wolbachia, however, cannot manipulate their host's reproductive systems—yet they can successfully infect insect populations. How is this possible? Here we show that a Wolbachia strain that naturally infects Drosophila melanogaster, and induces very low levels of reproductive parasitism, can also act as a nutritional mutualist. When D. melanogaster flies were reared on normal diets, we observed no cost or benefit associated with the Wolbachia infection. But, if we reared flies on diets containing either very low or high amounts of iron, Wolbachia-infected flies produced more eggs than uninfected flies. As wild-caught flies contain low amounts of iron, our results suggest that flies in the wild should benefit from their Wolbachia symbiont.