The price of protection: a defensive endosymbiont impairs nymph growth in the bird cherry‐oat aphid, Rhopalosiphum padi

Daniel Leybourne, Jorunn Bos, Tracy A. Valentine, Alison Karley (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
165 Downloads (Pure)


Bacterial endosymbionts have enabled aphids to adapt to a range of stressors, but their effects in many aphid species remain to be established. The bird cherry-oat aphid, Rhopalosiphum padi (Linnaeus), is an important pest of cereals worldwide and has been reported to form symbiotic associations with Serratia symbiotica and Sitobion miscanthi L-type symbiont endobacteria, although the resulting aphid phenotype has not been described. This study presents the first report of R. padi infection with the facultative bacterial endosymbiont Hamiltonella defensa. Individuals of R. padi were sampled from populations in Eastern Scotland, UK, and shown to represent seven R. padi genotypes based on the size of polymorphic microsatellite markers; two of these genotypes harbored H. defensa. In parasitism assays, survival of H. defensa-infected nymphs following attack by the parasitoid wasp Aphidius colemani (Viereck) was 5 fold higher than for uninfected nymphs. Aphid genotype was a major determinant of aphid performance on two Hordeum species, a modern cultivar of barley H. vulgare and a wild relative H. spontaneum, although aphids infected with H. defensa showed 16% lower nymph mass gain on the partially resistant wild relative compared with uninfected individuals. These findings suggest that deploying resistance traits in barley will favor the fittest R. padi genotypes, but symbiont-infected individuals will be favored when parasitoids are abundant, although these aphids will not achieve optimal performance on a poor quality host plant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-85
Number of pages17
JournalInsect Science
Issue number1
Early online date24 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • cereal aphid
  • Hamiltonella defensa
  • Hordeum spontaneum
  • Hordeum vulgare
  • symbiosis


Dive into the research topics of 'The price of protection: a defensive endosymbiont impairs nymph growth in the bird cherry‐oat aphid, Rhopalosiphum padi'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this