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J Exp Biol. 2013 Mar 15;216(Pt 6):977-83. doi: 10.1242/jeb.079582. Epub 2012 Nov 29.

Photo-orientation regulates seasonal habitat selection in the two-spotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae.

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  • 1Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Chiyoda, Tokyo 102-0083, Japan.


Non-diapausing spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) live on the undersurface of host leaves during summer, but diapausing mites overwinter in dark hibernacula. The light environments of these habitats differ: visible radiation (VIS) but not ultraviolet radiation (UV) reaches the undersurface of leaves, but neither enters dark hibernacula. Thus, mites of either seasonal form could locate their preferred habitat by photo-orientation responses to UV and VIS. To investigate this possibility, we analysed the mites' locomotion behaviour on a virtual field with a programmed chequered pattern of light and dark patches in a micro-locomotion compensator. Both non-diapausing and diapausing mites moved away from UV-illuminated patches into dark patches. Non-diapausing mites moved towards VIS-illuminated patches, whereas diapausing mites did not show a preference. Our results show that non-diapausing mites avoid UV and are attracted to VIS, suggesting that this can guide them beneath a leaf. Diapausing mites simply avoid UV. The lack of a preference for VIS during diapause could be due to changes in carotenoid metabolism, which also involve orange pigmentation of diapausing mites. We consider that a diapause-mediated switch of the response to VIS, together with regular avoidance of UV, plays a key role in the seasonal change of habitat selection in this species. This seasonal polyphenism involves alterations in not only reproductive state and pigmentation, but also in photo-spectral responses.

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