Mechanisms that influence sex ratio variation in the invasive hymenopteran Sirex noctilio in South Africa.

Academic Article


  • Sirex noctilio is an economically important invasive pest of commercial pine forestry in the Southern Hemisphere. Newly established invasive populations of this woodwasp are characterized by highly male-biased sex ratios that subsequently revert to those seen in the native range. This trend was not observed in the population of S. noctilio from the summer rainfall regions in South Africa, which remained highly male-biased for almost a decade. The aim of this study was to determine the cause of this persistent male bias. As an explanation for this pattern, we test hypotheses related to mating success, female investment in male versus female offspring, and genetic diversity affecting diploid male production due to complementary sex determination. We found that 61% of females in a newly established S. noctilio population were mated. Microsatellite data analysis showed that populations of S. noctilio from the summer rainfall regions in South Africa are far less genetically diverse than those from the winter rainfall region, with mean Nei's unbiased gene diversity indexes of 0.056 and 0.273, respectively. These data also identified diploid males at low frequencies in both the winter (5%) and summer (2%) rainfall regions. The results suggest the presence of a complementary sex determination mechanism in S. noctilio, but imply that reduced genetic diversity is not the main driver of the male bias observed in the summer rainfall region. Among all the factors considered, selective investment in sons appears to have the most significant influence on male bias in S. noctilio populations. Why this investment remains different in frontier or early invasive populations is not clear but could be influenced by females laying unfertilized eggs to avoid diploid male production in populations with a high genetic relatedness.
  • Authors

  • Queffelec, Joséphine
  • Wooding, Amy L
  • Greeff, Jaco M
  • Garnas, Jeffrey
  • Hurley, Brett P
  • Wingfield, Michael J
  • Slippers, Bernard
  • Publication Date

  • July 2019
  • Published In


  • complementary sex determination
  • constrained sex allocation
  • invasive species
  • population genetics
  • sex ratio
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 7966
  • End Page

  • 7973
  • Volume

  • 9
  • Issue

  • 14