Plasticity in host utilization by two host-associated populations of Aphis gossypii Glover. Academic Article uri icon


  • Biological and morphological plasticity in polyphagous insect herbivores allow them to exploit diverse host plant species. Geographical differences in resource availability can lead to preferential host exploitation and result in inconsistent host specialization. Biological and molecular data provide insights into specialization and plasticity of such herbivore populations. In agricultural landscapes, Aphis gossypii encounters several crop and non-crop hosts, which exist in temporal and spatial proximity. We investigated the host-specialization of two A. gossypii host-associated populations (HAPs), which were field collected from cotton and squash (cotton-associated population and melon-associated population), and later maintained separately in the greenhouse. The two aphid populations were exposed to seven plant species (cotton, okra, watermelon, squash, cucumber, pigweed, and morning glory), and evaluated for their host utilization plasticity by estimating aphid's fitness parameters (nymphal period, adult period, fecundity, and intrinsic rate of increase). Four phenotypical characters (body length, head capsule width, hind tibia length and cornicle length) were also measured from the resulting 14 different HAP host plant combinations. Phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial COI sequences showed no genetic variation between the two HAPs. Fitness parameters indicated a significant variation between the two aphid populations, and the variation was influenced by host plants. The performance of melon-aphids was poor (up to 89% reduction in fecundity) on malvaceous hosts, cotton and okra. However, cotton-aphids performed better on cucurbitaceous hosts, squash and watermelon (up to 66% increased fecundity) compared with the natal host, cotton. Both HAPs were able to reproduce on two weed hosts. Cotton-aphids were smaller than melon-aphids irrespective of their host plants. Results from this study suggest that the two HAPs in the study area do not have strict host specialization; rather they exhibit plasticity in utilizing several hosts. In this scenario, it is unlikely that host-associated A. gossypii populations would evolve into host-specific biotypes.

published proceedings

  • Bull Entomol Res

author list (cited authors)

  • Barman, A. K., Gadhave, K. R., Dutta, B., & Srinivasan, R.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Barman, AK||Gadhave, KR||Dutta, B||Srinivasan, R

publication date

  • June 2018