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Group 3

Microbial Matriarchy

Wiki site of the practical exercise of the IX Southern-Summer School on Mathematical Biology.

Here you will find the exercise assignment and the group's products.

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Wolbachia is a bacteria that infects a wide range of Arthropods. This particular bacterial infection is maternally inherited and often result in bacterial manipulation of host reproduction dynamics. One of the main host reproduction manipulations of Wolbachia is Male-killing (MK).

MK Wolbachia leads to the mortality of all female’s male offspring in the fruitfly Drosophila innubila, resulting in an all-female cohort (Figure 1). Due to a high frequency of this mechanism in nature it was investigated the possible advantages MK could provide to host. In an experimental study, Unckless & Jaenike (2011) found that surviving (and infected) daughters benefit from the death of their brothers through some form of fitness compensation (e.g. resource reallocation) and that Wolbachia infection could increase fecundity in nutrient-deprived flies. These mechanisms are beneficial to Wolbachia since it ensures the vertical spread of infection.

It is expected that the interplay between infected and healthy females and healthy males can lead to different scenarios. In one extreme, MK Wolbachia becomes its own executioner, leading to the collapse of the whole system; in the other, Wolbachia infected and uninfected hosts can coexist. Nevertheless, the conditions leading to either system extinction or population coexistence are poorly understood.


Propose and analyze a mathematical model to elucidate this dynamics.

Suggested questions

  • Investigate the system's response to varying degrees of maternal inheritance of MK Wolbachia infection. How can infected host population establish and dominate?
  • It has been proposed that Wolbachia infections can lead to an increase in fecundity. According to your model, in which situations does infected and uninfected females coexist?
  • Under which circumstances MK Wolbachia infection can lead to system collapse?

Further well-grounded questions from the group are welcome.


2020/groups/g3/start.txt · Last modified: 2020/01/10 19:55 by prado