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The influence of ants and parasitoids on aphid reproduction in the field
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]
  1. The aim of this study is to investigate how the availability of attending ants influences aphid reproductive investment and the rate of parasitoid attack.
  2. We conducted a field experiment involving the facultative myrmecophile Aphis fabae and the ant species Lasius niger. The experiment relied on natural aphid colonization of potted plants of scentless mayweed (Tripleurospermum perforatum) placed outdoors. Ants that were naturally present at the field site had access to half of the pots and were excluded from the remainder.
  3. Adults aphids were sampled from plotted plants during the 4th and 5th weeks of the study, preserved in ethanol and then dissected to reveal the numbers and sizes of aphid embryos and the presence of hymenopteran parasitoid larvae.
  4. Ant-tended aphids were more often parasitized and contained fewer embryos, but with a greater proportion of these embryos being large. In conjunction with previous analyses of this interaction, the results indicate that under the conditions of our field experiment the net effect of the presence of ants on aphids is negative, throwing doubt on the mutualistic nature of the interaction. 
Keyword [en]
ant-aphid interactions, Aphis fabae, Lasius niger, mutualism, parasitism, reproductive investment, aphid embryo sizes
National Category
Behavioral Sciences Biology
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-111217OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-111217DiVA: diva2:774862
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2014-12-29 Created: 2014-12-29 Last updated: 2016-01-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Dynamics of the aphid-ant mutualism
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Dynamics of the aphid-ant mutualism
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

An appreciation of the role of mutualism is essential when studying ecology and evolution in most ecosystems. Information covering aspects of mutualistic interactions can serve as a complement to the somewhat one-sided perspective from the 1950’s and 60’s that is used when teaching biology. In this thesis I applied an in-depth approach in which variation in the interspecific interaction between Aphis fabae aphids and Lasius niger ants was studied both in the field and in the laboratory. An emphasis was put on studies spanning several consecutive aphid generations. This approach revealed important differences between ant tended aphids and those without ants. In the lab, I found an initial decrease in aphid adult size and reproductive investment in the first generations after the start of ant tending, which was followed by a recovery to the pre-tending situation after about four generations. Another laboratory experiment showed an increase in alate (winged aphid) production from exposure to aphid alarm pheromones, and an even stronger decrease in alate production from ant attendance, suggesting that ants have gained the upper hand in an evolutionary conflict over aphid dispersal. Results from a field experiment further emphasized the possibility of negative effects of ants on aphids, showing that ant-tended aphid colonies experienced a higher rate of parasitoid attacks, produced fewer alates and embryos in adult aphids. The thesis highlights the scope for variation in the net effect of the interaction for aphids, and argues that, depending on the environmental circumstances, the interaction may sometimes and perhaps even often not really be a case of mutualism. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2015. 24 p.
Keyword
mutualism, transgenerational, aphids, aphid-ant, conflict of interest, (E)-β-farnesene, phenotypic plasticity, predation risk, wing induction, maternal effect, reproductive investment, embryo size
National Category
Behavioral Sciences Biology
Research subject
Ethology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-111301 (URN)978-91-7649-076-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-02-06, Ahlmannsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2015-01-15 Created: 2014-12-30 Last updated: 2017-11-22Bibliographically approved

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