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 June 17, 2019

Jennifer Brisson Uncovers Genes that Help Determine if Pea Aphids Get Their Wings

Many of an organism’s traits are influenced by cues from the organism’s environment. These features are known as phenotypically plastic traits and are important in allowing an organism to cope with unpredictable environments.

But what are the genetic mechanisms underlying these traits?

Jennifer Brisson, an associate professor of biology at the University of Rochester, and her former postdoctoral student Benjamin Parker, now an assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Tennessee, studied phenotypically plastic traits in pea aphids and uncovered, for the first time, genes that influence whether aphids produce wingless or winged offspring in response to their environment. In a new paper in the journal Current Biology, the researchers shed light on how phenotypically plastic traits evolve and address critical questions about the evolution of environmentally sensitive traits.