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Specialized host-plant performance of the cotton aphid is altered by experience

Liu, Xiang Dong, Zhai, Bao Ping, Zhang, Xiao Xi
Ecological research 2008 v.23 no.5 pp. 919-925
Aphis gossypii, Cucurbitaceae, Hibiscus syriacus, cotton, cucumbers, escape behavior, host plants, live feeds, overwintering, phytophagous insects
Although distinct host specialization is observed for the cotton-melon aphid (Aphis gossypii Glover) on cotton and cucurbit plants, it is still ambiguous whether the specialization is altered by experience on a novel host plant. Here the performance of cotton and cucurbit-specialized aphids, A. gossypii on novel host plants was studied by a host-selection test and by the life-table method. The two host-specialized aphids cannot survive and establish populations after reciprocal host transfers. They have ability to recognize the host plants on which they were reared, and escape behavior from novel hosts was observed. Interestingly, the cotton and cucurbit-specialized aphids survive and reproduce normally on hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus), a main overwintering host plant, and host-fidelity of A. gossypii to cucurbit plants is altered by feeding and living experience on hibiscus, which confers the same capacity to use cotton and cucumber on to the cucurbit-specialized population, but host-fidelity to cotton is not altered and the fitness of the cotton specialized population to cucumber is still poorer. A. gossypii from hibiscus has a significant preference for cotton to cucumber in the host-selection process, and none stays on cucumber more than 20 h after transfer. The results presented imply that cucurbit-specialized aphids might not return to an overwintering host plant (hibiscus) in wild fields, so host conservatism to cucurbit plants is maintained. The potential of cucurbit-specialized aphids of A. gossypii to use cotton plants, intermediated by experience on hibiscus, suggests that the specialized host-plant performance of phytophagous insects is not wholly conservative.