Like tiny Russian dolls, the mealybugs that infest your houseplants carry bacteria inside their cells that are themselves infected with another type of bacteria. A new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, shows that instead of spreading from bug to bug, the second set of bacteria infected the first several times in the past and are now being passed along and evolving with them.
The knowledge could be useful for working out how the insect species are related to each other, aiding pest control efforts.
Scientists had previously known that mealybugs carry two different types of bacteria. In 2001, researchers at Utah State University led by Carol von Dohlen showed that one type, called the secondary or S-endosymbiont, was actually inside the other, called the primary or P-endosymbiont. The P-endosymbionts were themselves inside specialized cells in the mealybugs body.
Andy Fell | EurekAlert!
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