Lipid synthesis can have a major effect on survival and reproduction, yet most insect parasitoids fail to synthesize lipids. For parasitic wasps in the genus Leptopilina, however, studies have suggested that there is intraspecific variation in the ability for lipid synthesis. These studies were performed on only few populations, and a large-scale investigation of both lipogenic ability and population genetic structure is now needed. Here, we first examined lipogenic ability of nine Leptopilina heterotoma populations collected in 2013 and found that five of nine populations synthesized lipids. The 2013 populations could not be used to determine genetic structure; hence, we obtained another 20 populations in 2016 that were tested for lipogenic ability. Thirteen of 20 populations (all Leptopilina heterotoma) were then used to determine the level of genetic differentiation (i.e., haplotype and nucleotide diversity) by sequencing neutral mitochondrial (COI) and nuclear (ITS2) markers. None of the 2016 populations synthesized lipids, and no genetic differentiation was found. Our results did reveal a nearly twofold increase in mean wasp lipid content at emergence in populations obtained in 2016 compared to 2013. We propose that our results can be explained by plasticity in lipid synthesis, where lipogenic ability is determined by environmental factors, such as developmental temperature and/or the amount of lipids carried over from the host.
- molecular markers
- DROSOPHILA PARASITOIDS