African Queen Is A Male Killer Butterfly

Posted: Jul 21 2016, 10:42am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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African Queen is a Male Killer Butterfly
Tiny microbe turns tropical butterfly into male killer. Credit: University of Exeter
  • Male Killer Microbe found in African Queen

A male killer microbe was found by scientists in the African Queen, which is a species of tropical butterfly.

Researchers have found that a male-killing microbe often tends to infect a species of butterfly called the African Queen. This microbe leads to the death of all the male progeny of the butterfly.

Termed Spiroplasma, this organism infects most species of butterfly but does not usually cause any deaths in their offspring. Yet in a small area surrounding Nairobi, scientists found that this microbe caused the death of all the male offspring.

What actually happens is that the sons of the butterfly fail to hatch from their eggs and are devoured by their famished sisters. This study was published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The chromosomes of the female tend to radically change due to a non-sex chromosome to form a new pattern of genes termed “neo W”. While most novel species are formed due to environmental changes here for the first time we have clear proof of a microbe that is driving species apart from each other.

Although not everything is clear just yet, there a few vital clues that point us in the right direction as far as research concerning the African Queen is fruitful.

Since no males escape this microbe’s infection of the African Queen, this essentially means that the species faces an endangered status that could well shift into the extinct one in no time at all.

The study comprised more than a dozen years of research during the course of which the sex and color patterns of the butterflies were meticulously noted down.

After the female butterflies were sent to Germany to have their chromosomes tested, the startling fact regarding the male killing microbe emerged from the rubble of raw data.

The undeniable evidence of two of the chromosomes having fused was enough to spark a debate in the scientific community regarding the evolutionary strategies of Mother Nature.

The “neo W” acts as a genetic sink for all the males of the species. Nearly all the butterfly populations near the region of Nairobi (Kenya) are female.

The shuffling and self-cancelling of the chromosomes and genes of the African Queen show us that Nature in all her wisdom has the wildest of ways which she traverses in the quest for change. Change, of course, is the law of life.

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