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The evolution of life cycle complexity in aphids: ecological optimization, or historical constraint ? [Evolution]

by Frédéric Magné - published on , updated on

For decades, biologists have debated why many parasites have obligate multi-host life cycles. Here, we use comparative phylogenetic analyses of aphids to evaluate the roles of ecological optimization and historical constraint in the evolution of life cycle complexity. If life cycle complexity is adaptive, it should be evolutionarily labile, i.e., change in response to selection. We provide evidence that this is true in some aphids (aphidines), but not others (non-aphidines) – groups that differ in the intensity of their relationships with primary hosts. Next, we test specific mechanisms by which life cycle complexity could be adaptive or a constraint.(...)

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