In tune with nature: Wolbachia does not prevent pre-copula acoustic communication in Aedes aegypti

João Silveira Moledo Gesto, Alejandra Saori Araki, Eric Pearce Caragata, Caroline Dantas De Oliveira, Ademir Jesus Martins, Rafaela Vieira Bruno, Luciano Andrade Moreira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Mosquito-borne diseases are rapidly spreading to vast territories, putting at risk most of the world's population. A key player in this scenario is Aedes aegypti, a hematophagous species which hosts and transmits viruses causing dengue and other serious illnesses. Since vector control strategies relying only on insecticides have proven unsustainable, an alternative method involving the release of Wolbachia-harboring individuals has emerged. Its successful implementation vastly depends on how fit the released individuals are in the natural habitat, being able to mate with wild populations and to spread Wolbachia to subsequent generations. In mosquitoes, an important aspect of reproductive fitness is the acoustic communication between males and females, which translates to interactions between harmonic frequencies in close proximity flight. This study aimed to characterize the flight tone produced by individuals harboring Wolbachia, also evaluating their ability to establish stable acoustic interactions. Methods: Wild-type (WT) and Wolbachia-harboring specimens (wMelBr) were thorax-tethered to blunt copper wires and placed at close proximity to sensitive microphones. Wing-beat frequencies (WBFs) were characterized at fundamental and harmonic levels, for both single individuals and couples. Harmonic interactions in homogeneous and heterogeneous couples of WT and wMelBr variants were identified, categorized and quantified accordingly. Results: In tethered 'solo' flights, individuals harboring Wolbachia developed WBFs, differing slightly, in a sex-dependent way, from those of the WT strain. To test the ability to form harmonic 'duets', tethered couples of wMelBr and WT individuals were shuffled in different sex pairs and had their flight tones analyzed. All couple types, with WT and/or wMelBr individuals, were able to interact acoustically in the frequency range of 1300-1500 Hz, which translates to the convergence between male's second harmonic and female's third. No significant differences were found in the proportions of interacting couples between the pair types. Surprisingly, spectrograms also revealed the convergence between alternative harmonic frequencies, inside and outside the species putative hearing threshold. Conclusions: Wolbachia infection leads to small sex-dependent changes on the flight tones of Ae. aegypti, but it does not seem to prevent the stereotyped harmonic interaction between males and females. Therefore, when released in the natural habitat to breed with native individuals, Wolbachia-harboring individuals shall be fit enough to meet the criteria of acoustically-related mating behavior and promote bacteria dispersion effectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 22 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Aedes aegypti
  • Bioacoustics
  • Fitness
  • Harmonic convergence
  • Mating
  • Wolbachia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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