Host plant manipulation of natural enemies: leaf domatia protect beneficial mites from insect predators
Acarodomatia are small tufts of hair or invaginations in the leaf surface and are frequently inhabited by several taxa of non-plant-feeding mites. For many years, ecologists have hypothesized that these structures represent a mutualistic association between mites and plants where the mites benefit the plant by reducing densities of phytophagous arthropods and epiphytic microorganisms, and domatia benefit the mite by providing protection from stressful environmental conditions, other predaceous arthropods, or both. We tested these hypothesized benefits of domatia to domatia-inhabiting mites in laboratory and growth chamber experiments. In separate experiments we examined whether domatia on the wild grape, Vitis riparia, provided protection against drying humidity conditions or predaceous arthropods to two species of beneficial mite: the mycophagous species Orthotydeus lambi, and the predaceous species Amblyseius andersoni. For both taxa of beneficial mite, domatia significantly increased mite survivorship in the presence of the predatory bug, Orius insidiosus and the coccinellids Coccinella septempunctata and Harmonia varigata. There was no evidence for a protective effect of domatia with a third species of predatory arthropod, lacewing larvae Chrysoperla rufilabris. In contrast, there was no evidence for either species of beneficial mite that domatia provided any protection against low humidity. Thus in this system the primary mechanism by which domatia benefit beneficial mites is by protecting these organisms from other predatory arthropods on the leaf surface.
KeywordsTritrophic interactions Mutualism Intraguild predation Microclimate-humidity
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