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Quantifying aphid behavioral responses to environmental change



Aphids are the most common vector of plant viruses, and their feeding behavior is an important determinant of virus transmission. Positive effects of global change on aphid performance have been documented, but effects on aphid behavior are not known. We assessed the plant-mediated behavioral responses of a generalist aphid, Myzus persicae (Sulzer) (Hemiptera: Aphididae), to increased CO2 and nitrogen when feeding on each of three host species: Amaranthus viridis L. (Amaranthaceae), Polygonum persicaria L. (= Persicaria maculosa Gray) (Polygonaceae), and Solanum dulcamara L. (Solanaceae). Via a family of constrained Markov models, we tested the degree to which aphid movements demonstrate preference among host species or plants grown under varying environmental conditions. Entropy rates of the estimated Markov chains were used to further quantify aphid behavior. Our statistical methods provide a general tool for assessing choice and quantitatively comparing animal behavior under different conditions. Aphids displayed strong preferences for the same host species under all growth conditions, indicating that CO2- and N-induced changes in plant chemistry have minimal effects on host preference. However, entropy rates increased in the presence of non-preferred hosts, even when preferred hosts were available. We conclude that the presence of a non-preferred host species affected aphid-feeding behavior more than changes in plant leaf chemistry when plants were grown under elevated CO2 and increased N availability.

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