First record of a gall-forming aphid fighting off predator

by Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell University
May 19, 2022

A researcher reports evidence of a gall-forming aphid defending itself against predators, a first for the species, Mordwilkoja vagabunda. The insects inject saliva into leaf stalks, inducing the plant to form small growths called galls that the aphids live inside.

The aphids were recorded attacking their moth larvae predators, by clawing the larvae with their tarsi and using their syringe-like mouths to cut the predator’s cuticle. They were also observed twitching collectively in unison, a defensive behavior that has been documented in other aphid species.

“I’ve never personally seen this behavior where they collectively twitched; they sync up their movement in a regularly timed pulse, they all shake,” said Andrew Legan, a doctoral student in the lab of Michael Sheehan, a Nancy and Peter Meinig Family Investigator in the Life Sciences, and assistant professor of neurobiology and behavior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Legan is the author of the paper, “First Record of Anti-Predator Behavior in the Gall-Forming Aphid, Mordwilkoja Vagabunda,” published May 18 in the journal Ecosphere.

Keep reading:

Read the Ecosphere paper: