, Volume 21, Issue 1-2, pp 43-52

Palatability of microfungi to soil arthropods in relation to the functioning of arbuscular mycorrhizae

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Abstract

We investigated the feeding preferences of six species of mites and collembolans for three fungi commonly associated with roots of Acer saccharum (Glomus macrocarpum, Alternaria alternata and Trichoderma harzianum), from a maple-forest soil in southern Ontario, Canada. Experiments were also conducted in vitro to determine animal feeding responses to (1) increasing quantities of hyphal biomass, (2) the presence of root vs. litter fungal substrates, and (3) hyphae of different widths of Glomus macrocarpum. The results indicate that arthropods prefer to graze in the litter region rather than in the deeper soil layers. Under ideal moisture/temperature conditions, animals are forced to the lower regions by interspecific interactions. They prefer to graze on hyphae of conidial fungi rather than on those of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. When arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal hyphae are grazed, there is a clear preference for the narrower hyphae, which are those further away from the root. The thicker hyphal segments, commonly found connecting “absorptive hyphal fans” to roots, were less preferred. These data are not consistent with the hypothesis that microarthropods are detrimental to arbuscular mycorrhizal associations, and suggest that Glomalean fungi may have evolved mechanisms to deter grazing by microarthropods.