The curious case of New Zealand Coelostomidiidae

Manpreet Dhami *1, Jacqueline Beggs 2, Mike Taylor 2

1 School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, 261 Morrin Road Tamaki Campus, Glen Innes, Au
2 School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland

The endemic fauna of New Zealand has always attracted much interest for their unique attributes, such as large size and flightlessness. But such attributes are just scratching the surface of an extremely complex system, as exemplified by the scale insect-honeydew system. In New Zealand, an endemic family of scale insects, Coelostomidiidae, comprises nine species that occupy a range of native ecosystems throughout the country. These scale insects produce copious amounts of carbohydrate-rich honeydew and influence several trophic levels in the food-web, as well as important ecosystem functions such as carbon cycling.  Our research aims at understanding microbial and ecological aspects of this system. This paper reports on the bacterial symbionts that co-exist with endemic New Zealand scale insects. Using modern molecular microbiology techniques, we detected up to three novel insect bacteria and several other facultative bacteria associated with coelostomidids. Using flourescence in situ hybridisation, dense clusters of Bacteroidetes bacteria interspersed with facultative Wolbachia were detected in Coelostomidia wairoensis.  In addition we are investigating the coevolutionary relationships of these insects with their bacterial symbionts. Using modern molecular tools instead of traditional methods has allowed us to resolve some long standing mysteries, such as the phylogeny of New Zealand Coelostomidiidae.This work will provide the first insights into how microbial symbionts may contribute to the ecological success of New Zealand’s scale insects. 

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