Arthropod-Plant Interactions

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 417–424 | Cite as

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

Original Paper


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.


Attelabidae Carbohydrate Cellulose Chinese tallow Fungi Heterapoderopsis bicallosicollis Lignin Polysaccharide Symbiosis Triadica sebifera 



We thank Shunliang Feng, Lin Wang, and Yi Wang for their field assistance. We also thank Minyan He and Wenfeng Guo for improvements of this manuscript. The project was funded by the 100 Talent Programs of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (to J. Ding) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (SL849 to G. Wheeler).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaoqiong Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gregory S. Wheeler
    • 3
  • Jianqing Ding
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Aquatic Plant and Watershed Ecology, Wuhan Botanical Garden/InstituteChinese Academy of ScienceWuhanChina
  2. 2.Graduate School of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Invasive Plant Research LaboratoryUSDA/ARSFort LauderdaleUSA

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