Aphids present a fascinating example of phenotypic plasticity, in which a single genotype can produce dramatically different winged and wingless phenotypes that are specialized for dispersal versus reproduction, respectively. Recent work has examined many aspects of this plasticity, including its evolution, molecular control mechanisms, and genetic variation underlying the trait. In particular, exciting discoveries have been made about the signaling pathways that are responsible for controlling the production of winged versus wingless morphs, including ecdysone, dopamine, and insulin signaling, and about how specific genes such as REPTOR2 and vestigial are regulated to control winglessness. Future work will likely focus on the role of epigenetic mechanisms, as well as developing transgenic tools for more thoroughly dissecting the role of candidate plasticity-related genes.
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