Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Current Research in Insect Science 2 (2022) 100039



©2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license


Alternative, intraspecific phenotypes offer an opportunity to identify the mechanistic basis of differences asso- ciated with distinctive life history strategies. Wing dimorphic insects, in which both flight-capable and flight- incapable individuals occur in the same population, are particularly well-studied in terms of why and how the morphs trade offflight for reproduction. Yet despite a wealth of studies examining the differences between fe- male morphs, little is known about male differences, which could arise from different causes than those acting on females. Here we examined reproductive, gene expression, and biochemical differences between pea aphid ( Acyrthosiphon pisum ) winged and wingless males. We find that winged males are competitively superior in one- on-one mating circumstances, but wingless males reach reproductive maturity faster and have larger testes. We suggest that males tradeoffincreased local matings with concurrent possible inbreeding for outbreeding and in- creased ability to find mates. At the mechanistic level, differential gene expression between the morphs revealed a possible role for activin and insulin signaling in morph differences; it also highlighted genes not previously identified as being functionally important in wing polymorphism, such as genes likely involved in sperm produc- tion. Further, we find that winged males have higher lipid levels, consistent with their use as flight fuel, but we find no consistent patterns of different levels of activity among five enzymes associated with lipid biosynthesis. Overall, our analyses provide evidence that winged versus wingless males exhibit differences at the reproductive, gene expression, and biochemical levels, expanding the field’s understanding of the functional aspects of morph differences.

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