Resistance to a fungal pathogen and host plant specialization in the pea aphid
Ferrari J., Godfray HCJ.
Herbivores that show host race formation on different plant species have proven to be valuable model systems for studying the evolution of specialization and speciation. Here, we use the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, to investigate a possible link between specialization on two host plant species, Lotus uliginosus and Trifolium pratense, and resistance to a natural enemy, the fungal pathogen Erynia neoaphidis. Pea aphids collected on either plant species in the field showed in most cases poor survival on the alternate host plant. Furthermore, pea aphids specialized on T. pratense were very resistant to E. neoaphidis, whereas aphids specialized on L. uliginosus were susceptible. This susceptibility was not influenced by the actual food plant on which the assays were conducted. We discuss how selection from natural enemies may influence the process of specialization and race formation, and how specialization can affect the evolution of resistance.