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J Evol Biol. 2013 Mar;26(3):545-52. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12070. Epub 2013 Jan 8.

Predation drives stable coexistence ratios between red and green pea aphid morphs.

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  • 1School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA. adalbert.balog@ms.sapientia.ro

Abstract

We conducted field surveys and experiments to evaluate the hypothesis that predation is an important driving factor determining the degree of coexistence between red and green morphs of the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. Theory suggests that the different colour morphs are differentially susceptible to natural enemies and selection by predation which in turn leads to variable relative abundances of red and green morphs among host plants across landscapes. Our field surveys on pea and alfalfa revealed, however, that the colour morphs tended to coexist closely in a ratio of one red to three green aphids across fields with different host plant monocultures. Experimentation involving manipulation of the relative abundances of the two colour morphs on host plants pea and alfalfa with and without predator presence revealed that red morphs had higher or same fitness (per capita reproduction) than green morphs on both pea and alfalfa only when in the proportion of one red/three green proportion. Moreover, experimentation evaluating predator efficiency revealed that red morphs are safest from predation when in a 1 : 3 ratio with green morphs. These results suggest that in addition to predation selection effects, red morphs may behaviourally choose to associate with green morphs in a narrow 1 : 3 ratio to maximize their fitness. This evidence, along with existing published data on red and green morph anti-predator behaviour indicates that a 1 : 3 red and green morph coexistence ratio is driven by a balance between predation pressure and behavioural assorting by red morphs across landscapes. In this way predators may have ecological-evolutionary consequences for traits that affect the colour morphs' proportion and tolerances to selective pressure.

© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Evolutionary Biology © 2013 European Society For Evolutionary Biology.

PMID:
23294477
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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