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Laboratory Report

Articles: Laboratory Report

Red and Green Aphids

Essential pigments called carotenoids are beneficial to animal health. Humans commonly take in carotenoids by eating tomatoes, carrots, and other colorful plants. The pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum) is the only known animal species able to produce its own carotenoid molecules. Scientists believe a rare event of gene snitching from a fungus millions of years ago gave the aphid the ability to produce its own carotenoid pigment. Gene transfer across kingdoms, especially from the fungus to the animal kingdom is believed to be extremely uncommon. Body color in the pea aphid is controlled by one gene; if the gene is present in the aphid, a red color is produced and it is a dominant trait. Both red and green forms of the aphid exist in nature, with an ecological impact as a result. Red forms are preferred food sources for predator insects such as ladybird beetles, whereas green forms are preferred oviposition sites for parasitoid wasps. This phenomenon is even more interesting: it was found recently that, amongst aphids containing the gene for carotenoid production, some aphids were green and some were red. In this case, the green aphids were infected with a bacter...


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