It's OK to Be a Wimp —as Long as You Stay a Wimp

Brave or frightened, aphids do better when they're consistent
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2015 2:05 PM CST
It's OK to Be a Wimp —as Long as You Stay a Wimp
Aphids reacted in a variety of ways to approaching ladybugs.   (AP Photo/Dean Fosdick)

If a new study of the natural world is any indicator, it may be OK to flee at the sight of danger—just make sure you do it every time. Researchers investigated the reactions of aphids when they were approached by ladybug predators, evaluating the results in terms of "fitness and reproductive success," a press release reports. Some consistently dropped from the plants where they had been perched; others consistently decided to stick around and tough it out.

Both of those groups fared better than the aphids that performed a mix of the two behaviors. "We found that when the consequences are dire, it is important for the aphid to commit to a lifestyle, whether it is to run away or to stay put," says study author Sasha Dall. The study also points to what the researchers call "personality variation" in the aphids. Perhaps it's not surprising that aphids may have personalities; it seems cockroaches do, too. (More fear stories.)

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