Do plant mites commonly prefer the underside of leaves?
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The adaxial (upper) and abaxial (lower) surfaces of a plant leaf provide heterogeneous habitats for small arthropods with different environmental conditions, such as light, humidity, and surface morphology. As for plant mites, some agricultural pest species and their natural enemies have been observed to favor the abaxial leaf surface, which is considered an adaptation to avoid rain or solar ultraviolet radiation. However, whether such a preference for the leaf underside is a common behavioral trait in mites on wild vegetation remains unknown. The authors conducted a 2-year survey on the foliar mite assemblage found on Viburnum erosum var. punctatum, a deciduous shrub on which several mite taxa occur throughout the seasons, and 14 sympatric tree or shrub species in secondary broadleaf-forest sites in Kyoto, west–central Japan. We compared adaxial–abaxial surface distributions of mites among mite taxa, seasons, and morphology of host leaves (presence/absence of hairs and domatia). On V. erosum var. punctatum, seven of 11 distinguished mite taxa were significantly distributed in favor of abaxial leaf surfaces and the trend was seasonally stable, except for Eriophyoidea. Mite assemblages on 15 plant species were significantly biased towards the abaxial leaf surfaces, regardless of surface morphology. Our data suggest that many mite taxa commonly prefer to stay on abaxial leaf surfaces in wild vegetation. Oribatida displayed a relatively neutral distribution, and in Tenuipalpidae, the ratio of eggs collected from the adaxial versus the abaxial side was significantly higher than the ratio of the motile individuals, implying that some mite taxa exploit adaxial leaf surfaces as habitat.
KeywordsHabitat heterogeneity Adaxial–abaxial distribution Domatia Trichome Behavioral adaptation
We thank Dr. K. Okabe, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, and Prof. H. Amano, Kyoto University, for identification of mites. We are also grateful to Dr. T. Itioka, Kyoto University, and Dr. S. Nishida, Nagoya University Museum, for their methodological guidance; and Dr. S. Yano, Kyoto University, for his valuable suggestions. This study was partially supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B) No. 22380036 to OM from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.
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