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Decision making by generalist and specialist aphids with the same genotype

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Colin Tosh


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One idea to explain the high incidence of specialisation in phytophagous insects is that their nervous systems are simple and unable to efficiently recognise multiple host plants. Here this ‘neural limitations’ hypothesis is tested using a generalist (the summer winged virginopara) and specialist (the autumn gynopara) morph of a single clone of the black bean aphid, Aphis fabae, that are almost identical morphologically and have the same genotype. Electrical monitoring of stylet behaviour and non-invasive behavioural observations are used to compare initial plant recognition, first reproduction, ‘first registered phloem contact’ and ‘phloem acceptance’ of the generalist and specialist on their specific host plants (generalist—herbaceous hosts, Beta vulgaris, Papaver dubium, Rumex obtusifolius, Vicia faba; specialist—woody host, Euonymus europaeus) and on the same host (E. europaeus). Additional analyses of behaviour over the first few minutes of plant contact are carried out for three mutual non-host plants: Euonymus alatus, Prunus padus and Brassica pekinensis. Few examples are found where the host-selection behaviour of the specialist on its host plant is more efficient than the generalist across its hosts and there is little difference in the behaviour of the different forms on the same host. Indeed there are several instances where the generalist is behaviourally more efficient than the specialist. These include absolute time to first reproduction by the generalist on various herbaceous hosts and the same host, E. europaeus, absolute time to first registered phloem contact by the generalist on P. dubium, and incidence of phloem acceptance by the generalist on several of its herbaceous hosts. Rejection of non-hosts is carried out more efficiently by the specialist gynopara on P. padus and B. pekinensis but not on E. alatus. For generalist and specialist morphs of the same A. fabae genotype, therefore, broad host range does not appear to be associated with a reduced ability to make plant-use decisions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tosh CR, Powell G, Hardie J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Insect Physiology

Year: 2003

Volume: 49

Issue: 7

Pages: 659-669

ISSN (print): 0022-1910

ISSN (electronic): 1879-1611

Publisher: Pergamon


DOI: 10.1016/S0022-1910(03)00066-0


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