Reciprocal interactions between aphids and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi across plant generations

Ruth Chitty, Alan Gange

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The conditions experienced by one plant generation can influence the growth of the offspring generation. These maternal effects can reduce performance of foliar-feeding insects, through accumulation of plant defences. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) inhabit the roots of plants and are known to influence the performance of foliar-feeding insects. However, all published studies of the interactions between insects and AMF have taken place within one plant generation, but none across generations. Thus, in the present study Senecio vulgaris plants were grown with or without aphids and AMF (termed ‘induction events’), and seeds from each treatment were used to grow plants experiencing that same treatment over four successive generations, all grown in identical environmental conditions. Naïve aphids were reared on Senecio plants whose parents had experienced 0, 1, 2 or 3 induction events. We found strong negative maternal effects of herbivory on aphid growth, which were not mitigated by the mycorrhiza. However, teneral weight and growth rate showed a gradual recovery; aphids reared on plants whose previous three generations suffered attack were similar in size to those at the beginning of the study. Herbivory had positive or negative effects on the mycorrhiza, dependent upon the number of previous generations suffering attack or having mycorrhizal associations. We conclude that the outcome of many insect-plant-fungal experiments is likely to have been influenced by and need to account for maternal effects of the parental plant’s growth conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-43
JournalArthropod-Plant Interactions
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • herbivory
  • insect
  • maternal effects
  • Myzus persicae
  • Senecio vulgaris

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