1. A mother's environment frequently affects her offspring's phenotype. Such maternal effects may be adaptive, in particular with respect to pathogens or parasites, for example if maternal exposure increases offspring resistance. 2. In aphids, maternal effects are likely to occur as a result of their telescoping generations. This study investigated whether maternal effects influence the susceptibility of the peach-potato aphid, Myzus persicae (Sulzer) (Hemiptera: Aphididae), to its parasitoid Diaeretiella rapae (M'Intosh) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae: Aphidiinae). 3. In a first experiment, susceptibility was compared among offspring of aphid mothers that had either no contact to parasitoids, had contact but were not attacked, or were attacked but not mummified. Mothers from the last group had successfully resisted the parasitoid. 4. In a second experiment using two different clones, maternal and progeny environment were manipulated by rearing each generation either on a benign (radish) or a more stressful host plant (silver beet) before progeny exposure to parasitoids. 5. The first experiment revealed no significant effect of the maternal treatment on offspring susceptibility to parasitoids and thus no evidence for trans-generational defence. In the second experiment, maternal environment effects were also weak, yet with a trend towards less susceptible offspring of aphid mothers reared on the more stressful plant. However, there was a significant difference among clones and a strong clone x progeny host plant interaction, illustrating that the outcome of a parasitoid attack may be determined by a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. 6. Overall, the results suggest that there is limited scope for maternal effects in aphid defence against parasitoids.
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