Testing for epistasis between deleterious mutations in a parasitoid wasp.
Rivero A., Balloux F., West SA.
Determining the way in which deleterious mutations interact to effect fitness is crucial to numerous areas in evolutionary biology. For example, if each additional mutation leads to a greater decrease in log fitness than the last, termed synergistic epistasis, then sex and recombination provide an advantage because they enable deleterious mutations to be eliminated more efficiently. However, there is a severe shortage of relevant empirical data, especially of the form that can help test mutational explanations for the widespread occurrence of sex. Here, we test for epistasis in the parasitic wasp Nasonia vitripennis, examining the fitness consequences of chemically induced deleterious mutations. We examine two components of fitness, both of which are thought to be important in natural populations of parasitic wasps: longevity and egg production. Our results show synergistic epistasis for longevity, but not for egg production.