Aphids are little, green, and among the most intriguing insects due to their long list of biological anomalies. According to new research published only a few days ago, here is evidence that aphids use sunlight for energy used in metabolic purposes. Using what seems to be photosynthesis, aphids generate pigments known as carotenoids, which are vital for nutrition and vitamin intake. Other insects also use carotenoids, but they generate them through specific diets, aphids would be the only known insects to get this directly from the sun. Elsewhere in nature, organisms such as plants, algae, fungi and bacteria use sunlight in this same way.
The research team that announced these results, from the SophiaAgrobiotech Institute in Sophia Antipolis, France, insists that there is still a long way to go before they are certain that its photosynthesis. Questions, including understanding why the aphid’s diet is overloaded with sugar, still need to be answered. One possibility is that sugar acts as a type of backup battery for their energy for those times when the environment is under stress and access to sunlight might be limited.
Interestingly, these tiny green insects are considered a destructive terror in the world of agriculture and gardening. While in the world of science, they are known as a very successful group of organisms due in no small part to their ability to reproduce, adapt, and survive.
Photo: scyrene / flickr