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Keywords:

  • Aphis nerii;
  • density dependence;
  • maternal effects;
  • plant–insect interactions;
  • plant quality

Abstract.  1. Non-Mendelian maternal effects, the effects of maternal phenotype or environment on offspring phenotype, have been documented in numerous taxa. By affecting offspring vital rates (birth, death, and movement), maternal effects have the potential to influence population dynamics. However, relatively few studies have directly linked maternal phenotype or environment to offspring vital rates. Additionally, even fewer studies have compared the magnitude of across-generation effects (i.e. maternal effects) to within-generation effects.

2. Because of their telescoping generations, aphids can be strongly influenced by maternal effects. The effects of maternal density and maternal host-plant species on offspring survival, fecundity, and alate formation were investigated experimentally in Aphis nerii, the milkweed–oleander aphid.

3. Additionally, the relative strength of maternal effects were compared with those operating within a generation. Therefore, in another set of experiments, the effects of current density and host-plant species (within-generation effects) on aphid vital rates were examined.

4. While maternal effects were present, within-generation effects were much stronger and more strongly influenced aphid vital rates. Within a generation, aphids exhibited density-dependent survival, fecundity, and alate formation and these effects varied among host-plant species.

5. These results indicate that while maternal effects have the potential to affect population dynamics, this potential is not always met. Additionally, the current environment, not the environment of previous generations, more strongly impacts population dynamics.