Wednesday, December 16, 2009: 3:15 PM
Room 103, First Floor (Convention Center)
Endosymbionts might present an under-appreciated threat to butterfly conservation efforts that include translocation and population augmentation. /Wolbachia/ is the most widely distributed and best understood of these endosymbionts. These bacterial infections exhibit a variety of phenotypes that exploit the reproductive biology of their hosts. Upon initial infection, the exploitation of the host can have significant demographic and genetic consequences, which might be especially serious for taxa that are already threatened. Beyond the natural spread of infection, conservation efforts that include transplantation and/or captive propagation for population augmentation risk inadvertent infection. Another consequence of /Wolbachia/ infection is the disruption of phylogeographic and population genetic patterns of maternally inherited markers (due to linkage with the maternally inherited infection), which might lead to incorrect inferences regarding population structure. A small survey of at-risk butterflies from North America indicates that /Wolbachia/ infections occur in at least some of these butterflies and, thus, might pose a significant challenge for conservation efforts.