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Body-color plasticity of the English grain aphid in response to light in both laboratory and field conditions

Abstract : The occurrence of different color patterns in a population of a species can depend on genetic variations or plasticity to environmental conditions. Body color variation is under selection because it is involved in several ecological processes such as camouflage for prey-predator interactions or resistance to environmental variations. Among insects, aphids are known to produce different body-color morphs depending on their biotic and abiotic environments and their bacterial endosymbionts. The English-grain aphid (EGA) Sitobion avenae produces both red and green morphs in cereal fields. Using both field studies on the Canadian prairies (Saskatchewan) and laboratory experiments, we aimed to study the mechanisms that trigger plasticity in body coloration to better understand the ecological role of body coloration and color-change evolved by animals, including aphids. We first analyzed green and red morph EGA distribution on wheat ears in different fields and showed that red aphids were mostly located at the top of the ear and green aphids at the bottom. Then, using DNA sequencing, we showed that red and green morphs did not strongly differ in their bacterial endosymbiont composition and abundances. Finally, using a climate-chamber setup in the laboratory, we highlighted that EGA body-coloration is under light-intensity control and that it is possible to turn aphids from red back to green within a few days, and from green back to red within a couple of weeks (low-to-high and high-to-low light intensities, respectively). Light-intensity-controlled color-change likely results in adaptive plasticity in response to shifts in environmental conditions that can occur over the lifespan of an aphid, and is fully reversible, even at the adult stage.
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Contributor : Laurent Jonchère <>
Submitted on : Friday, December 18, 2020 - 10:12:42 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 21, 2021 - 2:27:30 PM


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Kévin Tougeron, J. van Baaren, J. Town, D. Nordin, T. Dumonceaux, et al.. Body-color plasticity of the English grain aphid in response to light in both laboratory and field conditions. Evolutionary Ecology, Springer Verlag, 2020, ⟨10.1007/s10682-020-10088-4⟩. ⟨hal-03034160⟩



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