Was Dan Janzen (1977) right about aphid clones being a "super-organism", i.e. a single "evolutionary individual"? : new insights from the use of molecular marker systems

  • Dan Janzen proposed in a paper in 1977 (loc. cit.), that a clone of aphids and for that matter dandelions consists, respectively, of one large ‘super-organism’. In effect a single evolutionary individual able to exploit resources over an expanded geographical range, and sometimes with aphids also, a wider range of resources (different kinds of host plants), much more than if the organism concerned were a single individual. Such a view is of course based on the notion that an asexual lineage (clone) has strict genetic fidelity, that is to say, is genetically identical over its entire genome between clone mates. This seems a highly unlikely scenario and indeed, modern molecular markers have revealed a plethora of mutational events within such so-called clones. Here in this talk I provide evidence from aphids that they are not ‘perfect forms’ but rather show a range of variations, including evidence of hybridization events, and that they can and do adapt to environmental circumstances, sometimes swiftly. Hence that even as asexual lineages, aphids are able to exploit new ecological circumstances and flourish, e.g. host adapted forms, whilst some species, notably the highly polyphagous peach-potato aphid (Myzus persicae), have also evolved resistance to a range of pesticides, and by so doing, have managed to survive in the face of these poisons. However, there are fitness costs associated with such adaptation, more especially in the highly resistant aphids. Because of the variation and adaptation shown by particular aphid species and asexual lineages, they cannot be described as a single evolutionary unit in a ‘Janzenian’ sense. What they show is ecological plasticity and an ability to adapt quickly, in large part enhanced by their incredible rate of reproduction and population expansion. Some migrating winged aphids are constrained in their exploitation of new habitats by environmental factors – geographical, climatic and ecological, especially lack of suitable hosts. In contrast, some other aphid species have seemingly colonized large areas of the world (probably aided by human agency) so that deciding what a population is exactly is a difficult task. It may even be that certain ‘super clones’ detected using molecular markers have indeed spread far and wide, clones which appear to fit the description of being ‘general purpose genotypes’ in that they can feed on a range of plant hosts under a range of different geographical-climatic conditions. As such, they are nearest to Dan Janzen’s views, although here again, strict genetic fidelity is not necessarily proven, only accepted from the application of a limited number of markers, e.g. multilocus genotypes in the case of microsatellite markers.

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Author:Hugh D. Loxdale
Parent Title (German):Mitteilungen der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Allgemeine und Angewandte Entomologie
Publisher:Deutsche Gesellschaft für Allgemeine und Angewandte Entomologie
Place of publication:Gießen
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2008/10/29
Year of first Publication:2008
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Contributing Corporation:Institute of Ecology, Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Release Date:2008/10/29
Tag:DNA; adaptation; aphid; clone; genetic variability; molecular markers
Page Number:14
First Page:437
Last Page:450
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Sammlungen:Sammlung Biologie / Sondersammelgebiets-Volltexte
Zeitschriften / Jahresberichte:Mitteilungen der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Allgemeine und Angewandte Entomologie / Mitteilungen der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Allgemeine und Angewandte Entomologie, Band 16 (2008)
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht