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Naturwissenschaften

, Volume 95, Issue 7, pp 671–676 | Cite as

Autumn leaf colouration: a new hypothesis involving plant–ant mutualism via aphids

  • Kazuo YamazakiEmail author
Short Communication

Abstract

Several recent hypotheses on the adaptive significance of autumn leaf colours have focused on specialist aphids. However, these hypotheses have overlooked several factors: the preferential investment by healthy vigorous trees in growth rather than defence against herbivores, variation among aphid species in their responses to bright autumn leaves and plant defences and the occurrence of tritrophic interactions in tree crowns. I incorporate these factors into a hypothesis that autumn leaf colours signal tree quality to myrmecophilous specialist aphids, with the aphids, in turn, attracting aphid-tending ants during the following spring, and the ants defending the trees from other aphids and herbivores. Therefore, bright autumn leaves may have adaptive significance, attracting myrmecophilous specialist aphids and their attending ants and, thus, reducing herbivory and competition among aphids.

Keywords

Aphid–ant interactions Autumn colouration Indirect interactions Myrmecophilous specialist aphids Plant–ant mutualism 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I thank Shinji Sugiura and Hiroshi Sakata for helpful advice in shaping this hypothesis and Simcha Lev-Yadun, David M. Wilkinson and anonymous reviewers for suggestions and encouragement on manuscript revisions. This research complies with the current laws of Japan.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Osaka City Institute of Public Health and Environmental SciencesOsakaJapan

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