Symbiont infection affects aphid defensive behaviours

Emilie Dion, Sarah Erika Polin, Jean-Christophe Simon, Yannick Outreman
Biology Letters 2011 October 23, 7 (5): 743-6
Aphids harbour both an obligate bacterial symbiont, Buchnera aphidicola, and a wide range of facultative ones. Facultative symbionts can modify morphological, developmental and physiological host traits that favour their spread within aphid populations. We experimentally investigated the idea that symbionts may also modify aphid behavioural traits to enhance their transmission. Aphids exhibit many behavioural defences against enemies. Despite their benefits, these behaviours have some associated costs leading to reduction in aphid reproduction. Some aphid individuals harbour a facultative symbiont Hamiltonella defensa that provides protection against parasitoids. By analysing aphid behaviours in the presence of parasitoids, we showed that aphids infected with H. defensa exhibited reduced aggressiveness and escape reactions compared with uninfected aphids. The aphid and the symbiont have both benefited from these behavioural changes: both partners reduced the fitness decrements associated with the behavioural defences. Such symbiont-induced changes of behavioural defences may have consequences for coevolutionary processes between host organisms and their enemies.

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