Aquatic Symbionts: Assessing the Abundance of Torix Group Rickettsia in Aquatic Insects around the World

Symbionts are known to be an important aspect of almost every living organism. Invertebrates are no exception. They display a remarkable range of symbiotic relationships with bacteria, which are capable of altering reproduction, defence against natural enemies, and play a role in nutrition. Up until now, most work has centred on a bacteria called Wolbachia which is commonly found in insects.

Wolbachia is relatively rare in Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) and other aquatic insects, but recent work has suggested the presence of another similarly pervasive microbe. Our work has revealed that the bacterium Rickettsia is carried in 40% of midge species, and the Azure Damselfly (Coenargrion puella) can carry one or two strains of infection. Data suggests that Rickettsia is a common but underrepresented feature of freshwater invertebrates and our aim is to see how true this theory is.

Court Hey Park

Court Hey Park (Diane Miller)

Court Hey Park has a rich cultural and natural history. Having once been a part of the extensive land estate owned by Lord Derby the land was later purchased by Robertson Gladstone who built his estate including a mansion and  walled garden on the site. After changing several hands the site is now managed by Knowsley Council and until 2017 was the home of the National Wildflower Centre Millenium project. This park is very popular with the local community with an active friends group as well as cricket, bowling and cycling clubs based here. The site is also the home of the North Merseyside Local Environmental Records Centre, Merseyside BioBank.


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