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Ecol Evol. 2013 Mar;3(3):706-13. doi: 10.1002/ece3.491. Epub 2013 Feb 13.

Comparing constitutive and induced costs of symbiont-conferred resistance to parasitoids in aphids.

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  • 1Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH Zürich Universitätstrasse 16, 8092, Zürich, Switzerland ; EAWAG, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology Überlandstrasse 133, 8600, Dübendorf, Switzerland.


Host defenses against parasites do not come for free. The evolution of increased resistance can be constrained by constitutive costs associated with possessing defense mechanisms, and by induced costs of deploying them. These two types of costs are typically considered with respect to resistance as a genetically determined trait, but they may also apply to resistance provided by 'helpers' such as bacterial endosymbionts. We investigated the costs of symbiont-conferred resistance in the black bean aphid, Aphis fabae (Scopoli), which receives strong protection against the parasitoid Lysiphlebus fabarum from the defensive endosymbiont Hamiltonella defensa. Aphids infected with H. defensa were almost ten times more resistant to L. fabarum than genetically identical aphids without this symbiont, but in the absence of parasitoids, they had strongly reduced lifespans, resulting in lower lifetime reproduction. This is evidence for a substantial constitutive cost of harboring H. defensa. We did not observe any induced cost of symbiont-conferred resistance. On the contrary, symbiont-protected aphids that resisted a parasitoid attack enjoyed increased longevity and lifetime reproduction compared with unattacked controls, whereas unprotected aphids suffered a reduction of longevity and reproduction after resisting an attack. This surprising result suggests that by focusing exclusively on the protection, we might underestimate the selective advantage of infection with H. defensa in the presence of parasitoids.


Aphis fabae; Hamiltonella defensa; Lysiphlebus fabarum; parasitoid; resistance; symbiosis

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