Trophic cascades initiated by fungal plant endosymbionts impair reproductive performance of parasitoids in the second generation

  • Härri S
  • Krauss J
  • Müller C
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Variation in plant quality can transmit up the food chain and may affect herbivores and their antagonists in the same direction. Fungal endosymbionts of grasses change the resource quality by producing toxins. We used an aphid-parasitoid model system to explore how endophyte effects cascade up the food chain and influence individual parasitoid performance. We show that the presence of an endophyte in the grass Lolium perenne has a much stronger negative impact on the performance of the parasitoid Aphidius ervi than on its aphid host Metopolophium festucae. Although the presence of endophytes did not influence the parasitism rate of endophyte-naïve parasitoids or their offspring's survival to adulthood, most parasitoids developing within aphids from endophyte-infected plants did not reproduce at all. This indicates a delayed but very strong effect of endophytes on parasitoid performance, which should ultimately affect plant performance negatively by releasing endophyte-tolerant herbivores from top-down limitations.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Bottom-up cascades
  • Endophyte
  • Indirect effects
  • Multi-trophic interactions
  • Neotyphodium lolii

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  • Simone A. Härri

  • Jochen Krauss

  • Christine B. Müller

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