The evolutionary explanation for the change in leaf colour during autumn is still debated. Autumn colours could be a signal of defensive commitment towards insects (coevolution) or an adaptation against physical damage because of light at low temperatures (photoprotection). These two hypotheses have different predictions: (1) under the coevolution hypothesis, insects should not prefer red leaves in autumn and grow better in spring on trees with green autumn leaves; and (2) under the photoprotection hypothesis, insects should prefer and grow better on trees with red leaves because they provide better nutrition. Studying colour preference in autumn and growth rates in spring of a southern beech aphid species (Neuquenaphis staryi) on Nothofagus alessandrii, we found preference for green leaves in autumn but no differential performance of aphids in spring. We suggest that aphid preference for green might have evolved to exploit better their host during the autumn rather than to improve their performance in spring.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics