, Volume 97, Issue 3, pp 308–315 | Cite as

Plants, mites and mutualism: leaf domatia and the abundance and reproduction of mites on Viburnum tinus (Caprifoliaceae)

  • Raul Grostal
  • Dennis J. O'Dowd
Original Paper


Associations between mites and leaf domatia have been widely reported, but little is known about their consequences for either plants or mites. By excising domatia from leaves of the laureltinus, Viburnum tinus L. (Caprifoliaceae), in the garden and laboratory, we showed that domatia alter the abundance, distribution, and reproduction of potential plant mutualists. Over 4 months, leaves with domatia on six garden shrubs had 2–36 times more predatory and microbivorous mites, and more mite eggs than leaves without domatia. However, this effect varied among plants and was weaker on one shrub with few mites on its leaves. Domatia also influenced the distribution of mites on leaves. A significantly higher fraction of mites, representing all life stages, was found in vein axils of leaves with domatia than in vein axils on leaves without domatia. Single-leaf experiments in the laboratory showed that domatia enhanced reproduction by the predatory mite, Metaseiulus occidentalis, especially at low relative humidity (30–38%). When domatia were removed, oviposition was reduced significantly only at low relative humidity, suggesting that domatia provide mites with refuge from environmental extremes on the leaf surface. Moreover, the use of domatia by predatory mites may reduce the impact of some plant enemies. In two experiments where prey consumption was measured, M. occidentalis ate significantly higher percentages of the eggs of the two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae). Our results are consistent with the viewpoint that mite-domatia associations are mutualistic. By directly aiding and abetting the third trophic level, plants with leaf domatia may increase the efficiency of some predaceous and microbivorous mites in consuming plant enemies.

Key words

Domatia Mites Mutualism Predator Phytoseiidae 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raul Grostal
    • 1
  • Dennis J. O'Dowd
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia

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