Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2020) 129, 507-531
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Aphids in focus: unravelling their complex ecology and evolution using genetic and molecular approaches
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 129 (3), 507-531
Abstract: Aphids are renowned plant parasites of agriculture, horticulture and forestry, causing direct physical damage by sucking phloem and especially by transmission of plant pathogenic viruses. The huge yield loss they cause amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars globally, and because of this damage and the intense efforts expended on control, some 20 species are now resistant to pesticides worldwide. Aphids represent an ancient, mainly northern temperate group, although some species occur in the tropics, often as obligate asexual lineages or even asexual 'species'. However, besides their notoriety as enemies of plant growers, aphids are also extremely interesting scientifically, especially at the molecular and genetic levels. They reproduce mainly asexually, one female producing 10–90 offspring in 7–10 days and therefore, theoretically, could produce billions of offspring in one growing season in the absence of mortality factors (i.e. climate/weather and antagonists). In this overview, we provide examples of what molecular and genetic studies of aphids have revealed concerning a range of topics, especially fine-grained ecological processes. Aphids, despite their apparently limited behavioural repertoire, are in fact masters (or, perhaps more accurately, mistresses) of adaptation and evolutionary flexibility and continue to flourish in a variety of ecosystems, including the agro-ecosystem, regardless of our best efforts to combat them.
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