Symbiotic Bacterium Modifies Aphid Body Color

Science  19 Nov 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6007, pp. 1102-1104
DOI: 10.1126/science.1195463

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Color variation within populations of the pea aphid influences relative susceptibility to predators and parasites. We have discovered that infection with a facultative endosymbiont of the genus Rickettsiella changes the insects’ body color from red to green in natural populations. Approximately 8% of pea aphids collected in Western Europe carried the Rickettsiella infection. The infection increased amounts of blue-green polycyclic quinones, whereas it had less of an effect on yellow-red carotenoid pigments. The effect of the endosymbiont on body color is expected to influence prey-predator interactions, as well as interactions with other endosymbionts.

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