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Diapause in the pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum) is a slowing but not a cessation of development

Alexander W Shingleton*, Geoffroy C Sisk and David L Stern

Author Affiliations

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA

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BMC Developmental Biology 2003, 3:7  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-3-7

Published: 8 August 2003



Many insects undergo a period of arrested development, called diapause, to avoid seasonally recurring adverse conditions. Whilst the phenology and endocrinology of insect diapause have been well studied, there has been comparatively little research into the developmental details of diapause. We investigated developmental aspects of diapause in sexually-produced embryos of the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum.


We found that early stages of embryogenesis progressed at a temperature-independent rate, characteristic of diapause, whereas later stages of embryogenesis progressed at a temperature-dependent rate. However, embryos maintained at very high temperatures during the temperature-independent stage showed severe developmental abnormalities. Under no temperature regime did embryos display a distinct resting stage. Rather, morphological development progressed slowly but continuously throughout embryogenesis.


Diapause in the pea aphid, and perhaps in many other insects, is a temperature-independent slowing but not a cessation of morphological development. This suggests that the mechanisms limiting developmental rate during diapause may be the same as those controlling developmental rate at other stages of growth.