ECOLOGY/EVOLUTION: Phenotypic Plasticity

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Science  08 Oct 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5694, pp. 199a
DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5694.199a

There is a growing literature on the likely biological consequences of anthropogenic effects on the atmosphere, such as distribution shifts in response to changing temperature, plant growth effects in response to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, and extinction of large swathes of biodiversity. Other effects may be subtle in their mechanism but nevertheless ecologically significant in outcome.

Mondor et al. show that the aphid Uroleucon nigrotuberculatum, which feeds on goldenrod, exhibits phenotypic variation in the production of winged and nonwinged offspring as carbon dioxide and ozone concentrations increase, and that these responses interact with responses to beetle predators and hymenopteran parasitoids. Under higher carbon dioxide, the aphids produce more winged offspring in the presence of predators. Under higher ozone, more such offspring are produced in response to parasitoids. Thus, atmospheric change has the potential to affect an organism's response to higher trophic levels, suggesting that food web dynamics can be altered too. — AMS

Ecol. Lett. 7, 941 (2004).

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