A 48-Million-Year-Old Aphid—Host Plant Association and Complex Life Cycle: Biogeographic Evidence

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Science  14 Jul 1989:
Vol. 245, Issue 4914, pp. 173-175
DOI: 10.1126/science.245.4914.173


Biogeographical and paleobotanical evidence suggests that the aphid subtribe Melaphidina has been associated with its sumac host plant since the early Eocene when these plants were continuously distributed across the Bering land bridge. Transfer experiments indicate that the American species, Melaphis rhois, shows an unusual complex life cycle, similar to that known in Chinese melaphidines, with some generations feeding on mosses as alternate host plants. As with the association with sumac, this complex life cycle may have been established in the melaphidine lineage before the southward retreat of sumac from Alaska 48 million years ago. This example suggests that the interactions and life histories shown by modern populations may be determined, in large part, by evolutionary commitments made in the distant past.