Population structure, mating system, and sex-determining allele diversity of the parasitoid wasp Habrobracon hebetor

M. F. Antolin, P. J. Ode, G. E. Heimpel, R. B. O'Hara, M. R. Strand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Besides haplo-diploid sex determination, where females develop from fertilized diploid eggs and males from unfertilized haploid eggs, some Hymenoptera have a secondary system called complementary sex determination (CSD). This depends on genotypes of a 'sex locus' with numerous sex-determining alleles. Diploid heterozygotes develop as females, but diploid homozygotes become sterile or nonviable diploid males. Thus, when females share sex-determining alleles with their mates and produce low fitness diploid males, CSD creates a genetic load. The parasitoid wasp Habrobracon hebetor has CSD and displays mating behaviours that lessen CSD load, including mating at aggregations of males and inbreeding avoidance by females. To examine the influence of population structure and the mating system on CSD load, we conducted genetic analyses of an H. hebetor population in Wisconsin. Given the frequency of diploid males, we estimated that the population harboured 10-16 sex-determining alleles. Overall, marker allele frequencies did not differ between subpopulations, but frequencies changed dramatically between years. This reduced estimates of effective size of subpopulations to only N e∼20-50, which probably reflected annual fluctuations of abundance of H. hebetor. We also determined that the mating system is effectively monogamous. Models relating sex-determining allele diversity and the mating system to female productivity showed that inbreeding avoidance always decreased CSD loads, but multiple mating only reduced loads in populations with fewer than five sex-determining alleles. Populations with Ne less than 100 should have fewer sex-determining alleles than we found, but high diversity could be maintained by a combination of frequency-dependent selection and gene flow between populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-381
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Theis farms for allowing us to use their facilities. We thank Julie Cotton and Dan Hopkins for laboratory assistance. We thank Bill Black, Isabelle Olivieri, Ken Ross, Francois Rousset, and a number of anonymous reviewers for discussions and advice. This research was supported in part by USDA Grant 9402217 to MFA and MRS and USDA Postdoctoral Fellowship 9502315 to GEH.


  • Complementary sex determination (CSD)
  • Effective population size
  • Genetic load
  • Hymenoptera
  • Paternity skew

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