Predation risk differentially affects aphid morphotypes: impacts on prey behavior, fecundity and transgenerational dispersal morphology

Sara L. Hermann, Sydney A. Bird, Danielle R. Ellis, Douglas A. Landis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


To avoid predation, prey initiate anti-predator defenses such as altered behavior, physiology and/or morphology. Prey trait changes in response to perceived predation risk can influence several aspects of prey biology that collectively contribute to individual success and thus population growth. However, studies often focus on single trait changes in a discrete life stage or morphotype. We assessed how predation risk by Harmonia axyridis affects several important traits in the aphid, Myzus persicae: host plant preference, fecundity and investment in dispersal. Importantly, we examined whether these traits changed in a similar way between winged (alate) and wingless (apterous) adult aphid morphotypes, which differ in morphology, but also in life-history characteristics important for reproduction and dispersal. Host plant preference was influenced by the presence of H.axyridis odors in choice tests; wingless aphids were deterred by the odor of plants with H.axyridis whereas winged aphids preferred plants with H.axyridis present. Wingless aphids reared in the presence of ladybeetle cues produced fewer offspring in the short-term, but significantly more when reared with exposure to predator cues for multiple generations. However, winged aphid fecundity was unaffected by H.axyridis cues. Lastly, transgenerational plasticity was demonstrated in response to predation risk via increased formation of winged aphid morphotypes in the offspring of predator cue-exposed wingless mothers. Importantly, we found that responses to risk differ across aphid polyphenism and that plasticity in aphid morphology occurs in response to predation risk. Together our results highlight the importance of considering how predation risk affects multiple life stages and morphotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-419
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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