Diversity of sex-determining alleles in Bracon hebetor

George E. Heimpel, Michael F. Antolin, Michael R. Strand

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36 Scopus citations


In many hymenopterans, sex is determined at a single polymorphic 'sex locus'. Individuals that are heterozygous at this locus develop as females whereas homozygotes and hemizygotes develop as diploid and haploid males, respectively. Diploid males are developmentally inviable or sterile, and the likelihood of diploid male production depends in large part on allelic diversity at the sex locus. We assessed sex allele diversity within and among five U.S. populations of the parasitoid wasp Bracon hebetor using a series of crosses between isofemale lines. The study included two laboratory populations originating in Wisconsin, two field populations originating in Kansas and California, and a population purchased from a commercial insectary. Given the number of isofemale lines that we established, the maximum number of alleles that we could detect per population was 10. The number of sex alleles identified within populations ranged between three or four (for the two Wisconsin populations) and nine (for the California population). Subsampling three or four alleles from each population for between-population crosses led to identification of 12 alleles. Of these, four were unique to the California population, three were unique to one other population each, and one was found in only two populations. Extrapolation of the relationships between the subsampled lines led to a total estimate of 20 alleles within our lines. The relatively high allele diversity in the field and commercial insectary populations suggests that the sex determination load is relatively low in B. hebetor, and the differences in allele profiles between populations suggest that interpopulation dispersal can increase sex allele diversity within populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)282-291
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Drs Barry Dover and Judy Johnson for their aid in locating field sites. For laboratory assistance, we thank Carrie Graf, Miri Halevy and Jonathan Lund-gren. For discussions and advice on the manuscript, we thank Charles Baer, Paul Ode and two anonymous reviewers. This research was supported in part by U.S.D.A. Grant 9402217 to M.F.A. and M.R.S. and U.S.D.A. Postdoctoral Fellowship 9502315 to G.E.H.


  • Bracon hebetor
  • Complementary sex determination
  • Diploid males
  • Hymenoptera
  • Sex alleles
  • Sex ratio


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