Animals use different strategies to deal with changing environmental conditions. While standing and feeding on their host plant, aphids (Hemiptera: Aphididae) may be exposed to detrimental environmental perturbations, such as strong winds. If aphids are forcibly blown off the plant and spend time on the ground, they will face additional dangers by both ground-dwelling predators and detrimental soil temperature. It is therefore adaptive for aphids to behave in a way that lowers the risk of being removed from the plant. We observed that pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum (Harris) ) display a specific crouched body posture, previously undescribed, which reduces their chance of being carried off from the plant by sudden winds. We exposed aphids in the laboratory to different cues indicative of a windy environment: wind, plant vibration, and visual stimuli. We found that aphids crouch in two situations: 1) reactively, when they are being pulled by a continuous gust of wind threatening to dislodge them. 2) Anticipatorily, when environmental cues, such as plant vibration or continuous movement near their host plant, may signify that sudden wind gusts are expected. Crouching aphids were less likely to be dislodged by a sudden air stream or plant vibration than were aphids that did not crouch. Crouching thus improves the aphids' chances of remaining on their host plant under unfavorable environmental conditions.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2014 Entomological Society of America.
- Acyrthosiphon pisum
- Dropping response
- Environmental cue
- Incidental ingestion
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Insect Science