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Molecular ecology of peach-potato aphid

Photograph of peach-potato aphidsBackground and rationale

The peach-potato aphid Myzus persicae is one of the most widespread and well studied aphids. It is a major problem for agriculture because it spreads plant viruses amongst crops. It is extremely polyphagous and has the ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually. Sexual forms are produced in autumn, these mate and lay eggs which overwinter on peach, Prunus persica. Asexual forms are produced for the remainder of the year and also in some areas with few peach trees such as the UK, and in particular, Scotland, where the climate is unsuitable. The sexual stages provide the opportunity to generate novel gene combinations and the asexual stages provide the opportunity for rapid amplification of successful gene combinations under selection (clonal expansion).

The aphid has several interesting features: they show some adaptation to specifc host plants and have phonotypic plasticity; their asexual genotypes are spread worldwide, they have evolved insecticide resistant mechanisms and transmit virual particles very efficiently. All these makes it an ideal model to study various ecological questions.


Photograph of peach-potato aphids

The project is to provide information on the bio-ecology of insecticide resistance genotypes, their frequencies, their relationship with plant-virus and the impact of the insecticide selection pressure on aphid populations at the farm/regional level. This information will feed directly into and prove valuable for improving pest control programmes.


Photograph of peach-potato aphids

The data set consists of genotype profiles from thousands of individual aphids collected from crop hosts or from 12.2m high aphid suction traps.

These were sampled throughout Scotland from 1995 onwards. DNA is extracted and microsatellite loci amplification and analysis is carried out. Six microsatellite loci were chosen on the basis of their resolution. Eighteen aphid lineages (microsatellite multilocus genotypes or MLGs) have been designated as clones A-R. In complementary work we also collaborate with other laboratories round the world where the population structure of M. persicae is different because the primary host, peach trees are present.

Figure showing peach-potato aphid numbers from 1995-2011

Figure: Graph showing peach-potato aphid numbers from 1995-2011.


Tracking the global dispersal of a cosmopolitan insect pest, the peach potato aphid. 2009. Margaritopoulos, Kasprowicz, Malloch and Fenton. BMC Ecology 9, 13. (doi:10.1186/1472-6785-9-13)

Staff involved in the research

Brian Fenton, Gaynor Malloch (The James Hutton Institute); Jon Pickup and Fiona Highet (SASA); Ron Van Toor  (Plant and Food Research, New Zealand); Amalia Kati and John Margaritopoulos (University of Thessaly, Greece); Nikos Katis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)

Please contact Brian Fenton for more information about the research.


This work is being funded by WP6.4 and the Greek Secretariat for Research and Technology.


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.