Wolbachia is the symbiotic organism of animals that has spread the most throughout the planet Being in the right place at the right time. This has been the key to the evolutionary success of the Wolbachia bacterium, which uses about 40% of arthropod species and some nematodes as hosts. The study, in which researchers from the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC) and the University of Liverpool participate, shows that this intracellular bacterium appeared at least 200 million years ago. Throughout this time, the different lineages have evolved together with their hosts, sometimes acting as a parasite and other times establishing a symbiotic relationship. Wolbachia modifies the behavior of its host by influencing its reproductive capacity for its own benefit. However, Wolbachia sometimes also provides advantages to its host, such as higher

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fertility or improvements in the immune Germany Email Database system. Although the sequence of its genome has barely changed, it has been able to spread throughout the planet developing different strategies depending on its host. “One of the curiosities of Wolbachia is that the relationship with its hosts varies in each species. Sometimes the bacterium is essential for life, as occurs with the bed bugs, Cimex lectularius , which without the bacteria are not capable of synthesizing vitamin B and they die; others, however, act as parasites causing damage to them, this is the case of numerous species of beetles, butterflies and flies “, explains Christoph Bleidorn, a researcher at the MNCN. This ability has made Wolbachia the most widespread animal symbiote organism on the planet. In the work they have analyzed the kinship or phylogeny relationships

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of the bacterium as well as its molecular clock [they have found out when it originated] through its presence in a group of bees of the genus Nomada . There are different groups of Wolbachia whose differentiation coincided with the time of the great dispersal of species that occurred at the end of the Triassic (about 200 million years ago), which allowed it to spread throughout the globe with the help of its main hosts, arthropods. , greatly diversified group. Furthermore, analyzes of the complete genomic sequences of Wolbachia show an extremely slow evolution. “It is surprising how slowly their genome evolves in the face of the high adaptability and evolutionary success of this group. It is possible that these bacteria are capable of importing new genes into their genomes, which may be advantageous to establish a symbiosis with their hosts” explains Bleidorn.

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