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How Plants Obtain Predatory Mites as Bodyguards

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

Phytophagous mites are a serious threat to their host plants; in absence of predators they tend to overexploit their food source. To prevent such a crash and maintain as much leaf area as possible host plants may defend themselves in various ways, one of which is to increase the effectiveness of natural enemies of the phytophagous mites. Predatory mites are considered to be very important natural enemies of plant-feeding mites and there is evidence for a mutualistic interaction with plants. Examples of how plants obtain and arrest predatory mites as bodyguards are discussed. It is known for a long time that some plant species provide pollen that appear to be a very profitable food source for some species of predatory mites: it does not only promote survival, but also allows development and egg production. In doing so, plants ensure themselves of bodyguards even before any damage is inflicted. Recently, evidence has been obtained that plants under attack by spider mites provide information by releasing a blend of volatile chemicals that are helpful to predatory mites in locating their prey. Plant-predator interactions are not always of a mutualistic nature. Some plant species invest in a rigorous defence against spider mites, even though this may be to the detriment of the predators: glandular hairs of some plant species entrap not only spider mites, but also their predators. The evolutionary implications of these various plant-predator interactions are discussed.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Entomology, Agricultural University, P. O. Box 8031, 6700 EH Wageningen The Netherlands; 2: Department of Pure and Applied Ecology, University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 302, 1098 SM Amsterdam, The Netherlands


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