Seasonal morphometric variation in sexual and asexual, North American and Australian, populations of the aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum


–Correspondence: P. A. MacKay, Department of Entomology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, R3T 2N2. E-mail:


The lengths of the body and appendages of the aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum (Harris) (Homoptera: Aphididae) vary seasonally in sexual North American and asexual Australian populations. The first generation of spring aphids in North America and winter aphids in Australia have short appendages in relation to body length. Excluding this phenotype, North American and Australian aphids cannot be discriminated morphometrically. The short appendages in North America are associated with a specialized morph called a fundatrix; the short appendages of Australian aphids are caused by exposure to low temperatures during prenatal development. The same temperature-sensitive mechanism operates in sexual and asexual North American aphids, but does not explain the short appendages of the fundatrix, which appear to arise through a separate mechanism. The short appendages are caused neither by a maternal effect from winged mothers, although such an effect exists, nor by seasonal changes in body length and allometry, nor by microevolutionary changes. The temperature-induced shortening of appendages is a seasonal polymorphism, which mimics the short appendages seen in fundatrices. The two types of phenotypic plasticity have the same consequence in sexual and asexual populations of the same species and may be an example of convergent evolution.