• development;
  • Hemiptera;
  • insect;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • photoperiodism

Developmental biology is one of the fastest growing and fascinating research fields in life sciences. Among the wide range of embryonic development, a fundamental difference exists between organisms with sexual or asexual development. Aphids are unusual organisms which display alternative pathways of sexual and asexual development, the orientation of the pathway being determined by environmental conditions. These insects offer an adapted system in which to study developmental plasticity, because a side-by-side comparison of sexual and asexual development can be made in individuals with the same genotype. In this review, we describe the developmental mechanisms that have evolved in aphids for alternative sexual and asexual reproduction. In particular, we discuss how environmental cues orientate the reproductive mode of aphids from signal perception to endocrine regulation, and propose a comparative analysis of sexual and asexual gametogenesis and embryogenesis, which has been possible due to the development of molecular methods. As a result of the recent development of genomic resources in aphids, we expect these species will permit major advances in the study of the genomic basis underlying the choice of developmental fate and multiple reproduction strategies.