Global warming impacts diverse organisms not only directly but also indirectly via other organisms with which they interact. Recently, the possibility that elevated temperatures resulting from global warming may substantially affect biodiversity through disrupting mutualistic/parasitic associations has been highlighted. Here we report an experimental demonstration that global warming can affect a pest insect via suppression of its obligate bacterial symbiont. The southern green stinkbug Nezara viridula depends on a specific gut bacterium for its normal growth and survival. When the insects were reared inside or outside a simulated warming incubator wherein temperature was controlled at 2.5°C higher than outside, the insects reared in the incubator exhibited severe fitness defects (i.e., retarded growth, reduced size, yellowish body color, etc.) and significant reduction of symbiont population, particularly in the midsummer season, whereas the insects reared outside did not. Rearing at 30°C or 32.5°C resulted in similar defective phenotypes of the insects, whereas no adult insects emerged at 35°C. Notably, experimental symbiont suppression by an antibiotic treatment also induced similar defective phenotypes of the insects, indicating that the host’s defective phenotypes are attributable not to the heat stress itself but to the suppression of the symbiont population induced by elevated temperature. These results strongly suggest that high temperature in the midsummer season negatively affects the insects not directly but indirectly via the heat-vulnerable obligate bacterial symbiont, which highlights the practical relevance of mutualism collapse in this warming world.
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