Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Levels of clonal mixing in the black bean aphid Aphis fabae, a facultative ant mutualist


Vantaux, Amélie; Billen, Johan; Wenseleers, Tom (2011), Data from: Levels of clonal mixing in the black bean aphid Aphis fabae, a facultative ant mutualist, Dryad, Dataset,


Aphids are a worldwide pest and an important model in ecology and evolution. Little is known, however, of the genetic structure of their colonies at a microgeographic level. For example, it remains largely unknown whether most species form monoclonal or polyclonal colonies. Here, we present the first detailed study on levels of clonal mixing in a nonsocial facultative ant mutualist, the black bean aphid Aphis fabae. In contrast to the earlier suggestion that colonies of this species are generally monoclonal, we found that across two subspecies of the black bean aphid, A. fabae cirsiiacanthoidis and A. fabae fabae, 32% and 77% of the aphid colonies were in fact polyclonal, consisting of a mix of up to 4 different clones, which resulted in an overall average relatedness within colonies of 0.90 and 0.79 in the two subspecies. Data further show that the average relatedness in A. f. cirsiiacanthoidis remained relatively constant throughout the season, which means that clonal erosion due to clonal selection more or less balanced with the influx of new clones from elsewhere. Nevertheless, relatedness tended to decrease over the lifetime of a given colony, implying that clonal mixing primarily resulted from the joining of preexisting colonies as opposed to via simultaneous host colonisation by several foundresses. Widespread clonal mixing is argued to affect the ecology and evolution of the aphids in various important ways, for example with respect to the costs and benefits of group living, the evolution of dispersal and the interaction with predators as well as with the ant mutualists.

Usage Notes