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1. Defensive individuals, termed soldiers, have recently been discovered in aphids, Soldiers are typically early instar larvae, and in many species the soldiers are reproductively sterile and morphologically and behaviourally specialized. 2. Since aphids reproduce parthenogenetically, we might expect soldier production to be more widespread in aphids than it is. We suggest that a more useful way to think about these problems is to attempt to understand how a clone (rather than an individual) should invest in defence and reproduction. 3. Known soldiers are currently restricted to two families of aphids, the Pemphigidae and Hormaphididae, although they are distributed widely among genera within these families. We discuss the use of a phylogenetic perspective to aid comparative studies of soldier production and we demonstrate this approach using current estimates of phylogenetic affinities among aphids. We show that the distribution of soldier production requires a minimum of six to nine evolutionary origins plus at least one loss. 4. At least four main types of soldiers exist and we present and discuss this diversity of soldiers. 5. Most soldier-producing species produce soldiers within plant galls and we discuss the importance of galls for the evolution of soldiers. 6. We summarize the evidence on the interactions between soldiers and predators and between soldier-producing aphids and ants. 7. We present an optimality model for soldier investment strategies to help guide investigations of the ecological factors selecting for soldiers. 8. The proximate mechanisms of soldier production are currently very poorly understood and we suggest several avenues for further research.