, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 417-424
Date: 24 Apr 2012

A leaf-rolling weevil benefits from general saprophytic fungi in polysaccharide degradation

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Abstract

Insects, especially those feeding on leaf litter, widely form symbiosis with fungi. As dead plant tissues provide insects with poor-quality diets, which contain relatively high levels of indigestible lignin and cellulose, some saprophytic fungi may increase nutrient availability by polysaccharide degradation. Although the inherited, obligate bacterial symbionts are well documented, the non-inherited, facultative fungal symbionts are relatively overlooked. Females of the leaf-rolling weevil Heterapoderopsis bicallosicollis, a specialist of Triadica sebifera, construct leaf-rolls that serve as retreats from which larvae feed internally. We found that fungi associated with leaf-rolls were not transported by the female, but likely originated from the soil. To determine the effects of fungi on H. bicallosicollis development, fungal growth was reduced by a dry treatment. This treatment decreased adult weight and survival, and prolonged larval duration significantly. We further tested the hypothesis that fungi degrade leaf-roll polysaccharides, by a fungus inoculation experiment. Three dominant fungi (Penicillium sp., Aspergillus sp. and Cladosporium sp.) decreased the levels of soluble carbohydrate, cellulose, and lignin in inoculation experiments. Soluble carbohydrate, cellulose, and lignin of leaf-rolls all were found to decrease gradually during insect development. We conclude that these saprophytic fungi form facultative associations with H. bicallosicollis and benefit weevil nutrition by polysaccharide decomposition. Our study highlights the significance of fungal symbionts in insect nutritional ecology.

Handling Editor: Guy Smagghe.