Evolution, multiple acquisition, and localization of endosymbionts in bat flies (Diptera: Hippoboscoidea: Streblidae and nycteribiidae)

Solon F. Morse, Sarah E. Bush, Bruce D. Patterson, Carl W. Dick, Matthew E. Gruwell, Katharina Dittmar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Bat flies are a diverse clade of obligate ectoparasites on bats. Like most blood-feeding insects, they harbor endosymbiotic prokaryotes, but the origins and nature of these symbioses are still poorly understood. To expand the knowledge of bacterial associates in bat flies, the diversity and evolution of the dominant endosymbionts in six of eight nominal subfamilies of bat flies (Streblidae and Nycteribiidae) were studied. Furthermore, the localization of endosymbionts and their transmission across developmental stages within the family Streblidae were explored. The results show diverse microbial associates in bat flies, with at least four ancestral invasions of distantly related microbial lineages throughout bat fly evolution. Phylogenetic relationships support the presence of at least two novel symbiont lineages (here clades B and D), and extend the geographic and taxonomic range of a previously documented lineage ("Candidatus Aschnera chinzeiiÓ; here clade A). Although these lineages show reciprocally monophyletic clusters with several bat fly host clades, their phylogenetic relationships generally do not reflect current bat fly taxonomy or phylogeny. However, within some endosymbiont clades, congruent patterns of symbiont-host divergence are apparent. Other sequences identified in this study fall into the widely distributed, highly invasive, insect-associated Arsenophonus lineage and may be the result of symbiont replacements and/or transient infections (here clade C). Vertical transmission of endosymbionts of clades B and D is supported by fluorescent signal (fluorescent in situ hybridization [FISH] and microbial DNA detection across developmental stages. The fluorescent bacterial signal is consistently localized within structures resembling bacteriomes, although their anatomical position differs by host fly clade. In summary, the results suggest an obligate host-endosymbiont relationship for three of the four known symbiont clades associated with bat flies (clades A, B, and D).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2952-2961
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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