Evolutionary tug of war inside sweet-potato whitefly

2019-03-07 07:19:17

THE whitefly is a pest with a helpful lodger. It carries a bug that messes with its sex life- but which, in doing so, could help it spread further. Whitefly devastated sweet-potato crops in the south-western US in the 1980s and 90s, and still costs millions of dollars in crop damage worldwide. Strikingly, the proportion of whitefly infected with the bacterium Rickettsia bellii in Arizona, New Mexico and California soared from 1 per cent in 2000 to 97 per cent in 2006. To explain the swift proliferation,