Skip to main content

Data from: Specificity of multi-modal aphid defenses against two rival parasitoids

Cite this dataset

Martinez, Adam J.; Kim, Kyungsun L.; Harmon, Jason P.; Oliver, Kerry M. (2017). Data from: Specificity of multi-modal aphid defenses against two rival parasitoids [Dataset]. Dryad.


Insects are often attacked by multiple natural enemies, imposing dynamic selective pressures for the development and maintenance of enemy-specific resistance. Pea aphids (Acyrthosiphon pisum) have emerged as models for the study of variation in resistance against natural enemies, including parasitoid wasps. Internal defenses against their most common parasitoid wasp, Aphidius ervi, are sourced through two known mechanisms– 1) endogenously encoded resistance or 2) infection with the heritable bacterial symbiont, Hamiltonella defensa. Levels of resistance can range from nearly 0–100% against A. ervi but varies based on aphid genotype and the strain of toxin-encoding bacteriophage (called APSE) carried by Hamiltonella. Previously, other parasitoid wasps were found to commonly attack this host, but North American introductions of A. ervi have apparently displaced all other parasitoids except Praon pequodorum, a related aphidiine braconid wasp, which is still found attacking this host in natural populations. To explain P. pequodorum’s persistence, multiple studies have compared direct competition between both wasps, but have not examined specificity of host defenses as an indirectly mediating factor. Using an array of experimental aphid lines, we first examined whether aphid defenses varied in effectiveness toward either wasp species. Expectedly, both types of aphid defenses were effective against A. ervi, but unexpectedly, were completely ineffective against P. pequodorum. Further examination showed that P. pequodorum wasps suffered no consistent fitness costs from developing in even highly ‘resistant’ aphids. Comparison of both wasps’ egg-larval development revealed that P. pequodorum’s eggs have thicker chorions and hatch two days later than A. ervi’s, likely explaining their differing abilities to overcome aphid defenses. Overall, our results indicate that aphids resistant to A. ervi may serve as reservoirs for P. pequodorum, hence contributing to its persistence in field populations. We find that specificity of host defenses and defensive symbiont infections, may have important roles in influencing enemy compositions by indirectly mediating the interactions and abundance of rival natural enemies.

Usage notes