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Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species

Local animals in this group:

aphids

Aphididae

What do they look like?

Aphids are very small (only a few millimeters long), soft-bodied insects. They have two little tubes at the end of the abdomen called cornicles. They have small eyes, and sucking mouthparts. They are often green, but may be red, black or brown. They move slowly, and don't jump or hop. They usually have fairly long antennae.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger

Where do they live?

There are many thousands of species of aphids around the world, and there are probably around 250 species in Michigan. Adult aphids with wings are so small they can float on the wind, and be carried long distances.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Aphids are almost always found on or near their food plants. If they can they sometimes hide in the curls of leaves. Anywhere there are plants there are aphids.

How do they grow?

Aphids have incomplete metamorphosis: young aphids look a lot like adults, but don't have wings. Aphids often have complicated life cycles: an adult female can produce daughters without mating, and each of her daughters can do the same thing, so their populations grow fast. But as the season progresses, some produce sons and daughters that have wings, and these mya fly to new or different food plants. They mate and produce eggs that survive the winter and hatch the next spring. The hatchlings may reproduce without mating, and then their offspring move back to the original host plant species.

  • Development - Life Cycle
  • neotenic/paedomorphic

How long do they live?

Aphids live a few weeks to a few months.

How do they behave?

Aphids are often found in groups. They reproduce fast and don't move unless they need to. They feed day and night. Winged aphids can fly, but they are so weak that all they can do is lift up into the air, they can't fly against the wind. They are so small that they can drift high in the sky. Some have been collected thousands of feet up, and they can drift on the wind for hundreds of miles.

How do they communicate with each other?

Aphids communicate mainly with chemicals, though they may use touch and sight as well.

What do they eat?

Aphids are herbivores. They suck plant juices out of the leaves, stems, or roots of plants. The juices they drink often have much more sugar than protein. Aphids have to drink so much sugary juice to get enough protein that they excrete a lot of the sugar. They don't need it. The sugary fluid they excrete is called "honeydew", and many other insects feed on it.

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Aphids hide, and if they detect a predator, they produce a chemical that warns other aphids who smell it. They try to walk or fly away. Some aphids produce chemicals that taste bad, or grow waxy threads that make them hard to eat.

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Aphids are important enemies of plants, and are food for many small insects and other invertebrates.

Species (or larger taxonomic groups) that are mutualists with this species
  • Some ants feed on the sugar excreted by the aphids. They protect the aphids, and sometimes even keep them in their nests for the winter and put them on new plants in the spring.

Do they cause problems?

Aphids are one of the worst groups of pests on plants. They damage plants directly by feeding on them, and they also carry plant diseases from plant to plant. There can be millions and millions of aphids in a farmer's fields.

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • crop pest

Are they endangered?

No aphids are known to be in danger of extinction.

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Some more information...

Aphids are sometimes called greenflies.

Contributors

George Hammond (author), Animal Diversity Web.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.

bog

a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.

chaparral

mid-altitude coastal areas with mild, rainy winters and long, dry summers. Dominant plant types are dense, evergreen shrubs.

colonial

used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

parthenogenic

development takes place in an unfertilized egg

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Climbing plants are also abundant. There is plenty of moisture and rain, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

semelparous

offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

taiga

this biome is characterized by large expanses of coniferous forest, there is an extended cold season and heavy snowfall.

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tundra

A terrestrial biome found in very cold places -- either close to polar regions or high on mountains. Part of the soil stays frozen all year. Few kinds of plants grow here, and these are low mats or shrubs not trees. The growing season is short.

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

 
University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Hammond, G. . "Aphididae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 20, 2014 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Aphididae/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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