Defensive symbiosis is amongst nature's most important interactions shaping the ecology and evolution of all partners involved. The pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum Harris (Hemiptera: Aphididae), harbors one obligatory bacterial symbiont and up to seven different facultative symbionts, some of which are known to protect the aphid from pathogens, natural enemies, and other mortality factors. Pea aphids typically drop off the plant when a mammalian herbivore approaches it to avoid incidental predation. Here, we examined whether bacterial symbionts govern the pea aphid dropping behavior by comparing the bacterial fauna in dropping and nondropping aphids of two A. pisum populations, using two molecular techniques: high-throughput profiling of community structure using 16 S reads sequenced on the Illumina platform, and diagnostic polymerase chain reaction (PCR).We found that in addition to the obligatory symbiont, Buchnera aphidicola, the tested colonies of A. pisum harbored the facultative symbionts Serratia symbiotica, Regiella insecticola and Rickettsia, with no significant differences in infection proportions between dropping and nondropping aphids. While S. symbiotica was detected by both techniques, R. insecticola and Rickettsia could be detected only by diagnostic PCR. We therefore conclude that A. pisum's dropping behavior is not affected by its bacterial symbionts and is possibly affected by other factors.
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Vol. 44 • No. 3