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  1. Infections by maternally inherited bacterial endosymbionts, especially Wolbachia, are common in insects and other invertebrates but infec- tion dynamics across species ranges are largely under studied. Specifically, we lack a broad understanding of the origin of Wolbachia infec- tions in novel hosts, and the historical and geographical dynamics of infections that are critical for identifying the factors governing their spread. We used Genotype-by-Sequencing data from previous population genomics studies for range-wide surveys of Wolbachia pres- ence and genetic diversity in North American butterflies of the genus Lycaeides. As few as one sequence read identified by assembly to a Wolbachia reference genome provided high accuracy in detecting infections in host butterflies as determined by confirmatory PCR tests, and maximum accuracy was achieved with a threshold of only 5 sequence reads per host individual. Using this threshold, we detected Wolbachia in all but 2 of the 107 sampling localities spanning the continent, with infection frequencies within populations ranging from 0% to 100% of individuals, but with most localities having high infection frequencies (mean 1⁄4 91% infection rate). Three major lineages of Wolbachia were identified as separate strains that appear to represent 3 separate invasions of Lycaeides butterflies by Wolbachia. Overall, we foundmore »extensive evidence for acquisition of Wolbachia through interspecific transfer between host lineages. Strain wLycC was confined to a single butterfly taxon, hybrid lineages derived from it, and closely adjacent populations in other taxa. While the other 2 strains were detected throughout the rest of the continent, strain wLycB almost always co-occurred with wLycA. Our demographic modeling suggests wLycB is a recent invasion. Within strain wLycA, the 2 most frequent haplotypes are confined almost exclusively to separate butterfly taxa with haplotype A1 observed largely in Lycaeides melissa and haplotype A2 observed most often in Lycaeides idas localities, consistent with either cladogenic mode of infection acquisition from a common ancestor or by hybridization and accompanying mutation. More than 1 major Wolbachia strain was observed in 15 localities. These results demonstrate the utility of using resequencing data from hosts to quan- tify Wolbachia genetic variation and infection frequency and provide evidence of multiple colonizations of novel hosts through hybridiza- tion between butterfly lineages and complex dynamics between Wolbachia strains.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 31, 2023
  2. Specialized plant-insect interactions are a defining feature of life on earth, yet we are only beginning to understand the factors that set limits on host ranges in herbivorous insects. To better understand the recent adoption of alfalfa as a host plant by the Melissa blue butterfly, we quantified arthropod assemblages and plant metabolites across a wide geographic region while controlling for climate and dispersal inferred from population genomic variation. The presence of the butterfly is successfully predicted by direct and indirect effects of plant traits and interactions with other species. Results are consistent with the predictions of a theoretical model of parasite host range in which specialization is an epiphenomenon of the many barriers to be overcome rather than a consequence of trade-offs in developmental physiology.