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This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I'm going to huff and puff and blow the aphids away!

Acyrthosiphon pisum Harris Host: clover Trifol...Image via Wikipedia

"Tiny insects like aphids are not helpless when facing large animals that rapidly consume the plants they live on,"
said Moshe Inbar, professor of environmental and evolutionary biology and coauthor of a report in the Aug. 10, 2010 Current Biology. "They reliably detect the danger and escape on time."

A new study finds the aphids are able to detect the breath of animals including humans as they approach a plant allowing them enough time to flee. Researchers at the University of Haifa at Oranim, Israel first noticed this phenomenon when they allowed a goat to feed on aphid-infested alfalfa plants— "Strikingly, 65 percent of the aphids in the colonies dropped to the ground right before they would have been eaten along with the plant," the researchers write.

Goat eating leevesImage via Wikipedia

"As soon as we started to work on this problem, we suspected that the aphids responded to our own breath,"
he said. "We predict that this sort of escape behavior in response to mammalian breath may be found among other invertebrates that live on plants and face the same threat."

The researchers later used snorkels to keep their own breath from ruining their experiments.

To read the full ScienceDaily article click HERE.

Journal Reference:
Moshe Gish, Amots Dafni, Moshe Inbar. Mammalian herbivore breath alerts aphids to flee host plant. Current Biology, 2010; DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2010.06.065
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