Predation drives stable coexistence ratios between red and green pea aphid morphs

Authors

  • A. Balog,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Horticulture, Faculty of Technical Science, Sapientia University, Tg.Mures, Romania
    • School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
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  • O. J. Schmitz

    1. School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
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  • Data deposited at Dryad: doi:10.5061;dryad.rc3fj

Correspondence: Adalbert Balog, Department of Horticulture, Faculty of Technical Science, Sapientia University, 1C Sighisoarei st, Tg.Mures, Romania.Tel.: +4 074 056 2240; fax: +4 026 520 6211;

e-mail: adalbert.balog@ms.sapientia.ro

Abstract

We conducted field surveys and experiments to evaluate the hypothesis that predation is an important driving factor determining the degree of coexistence between red and green morphs of the pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum. Theory suggests that the different colour morphs are differentially susceptible to natural enemies and selection by predation which in turn leads to variable relative abundances of red and green morphs among host plants across landscapes. Our field surveys on pea and alfalfa revealed, however, that the colour morphs tended to coexist closely in a ratio of one red to three green aphids across fields with different host plant monocultures. Experimentation involving manipulation of the relative abundances of the two colour morphs on host plants pea and alfalfa with and without predator presence revealed that red morphs had higher or same fitness (per capita reproduction) than green morphs on both pea and alfalfa only when in the proportion of one red/three green proportion. Moreover, experimentation evaluating predator efficiency revealed that red morphs are safest from predation when in a 1 : 3 ratio with green morphs. These results suggest that in addition to predation selection effects, red morphs may behaviourally choose to associate with green morphs in a narrow 1 : 3 ratio to maximize their fitness. This evidence, along with existing published data on red and green morph anti-predator behaviour indicates that a 1 : 3 red and green morph coexistence ratio is driven by a balance between predation pressure and behavioural assorting by red morphs across landscapes. In this way predators may have ecological-evolutionary consequences for traits that affect the colour morphs' proportion and tolerances to selective pressure.

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