RESOURCES: The Wild World of Wolbachia

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Science  26 Apr 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5568, pp. 623
DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5568.623a

Almost unknown a decade ago, Wolbachia bacteria are gathering fans among ecologists, microbiologists, and entomologists. This genus of bacteria infests up to 75% of the world's insect species and invades other invertebrates as well. Although they're usually peaceful guests, the ingrates sometimes slay their hosts, a feat that makes them promising biocontrol candidates. Wolbachia fascinate evolutionary biologists because the microbes meddle in their host's reproduction and might drive speciation. Some strains kill only males, for instance, whereas others take sides in the contest between sperm from different males to fertilize the female's eggs.

Biologist Scott O'Neill of the University of Queensland in Australia created this community site last year for both Wolbachia newbies and mavens who want to keep up with the field. O'Neill says visitors particularly like the Wolbachia bibliography of 600-and-counting references. The site also offers a database that indicates which invertebrates play host to which bacterial strains, a directory of researchers, and a news section that posts jobs, meeting announcements, and citations for the latest literature. The genomes of six Wolbachia strains are being sequenced, and O'Neill plans to incorporate the data.

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