The ophiostomatoid fungus Leptographium abietinum is symbiotic with the North American spruce beetle Dendroctonus rufipennis; however, the ecology of these interactions are not understood. Multiple functional hypotheses regarding beetle-symbiont interactions pervade the literature, especially the view that symbionts may provide nutrition, competitively exclude antagonistic microbes, or detoxify host plant compounds. Here, these three hypotheses are tested in an effort to discern whether the ecological profile of L. abietinum is consistent with bark beetle-fungus mutualisms. Three important findings emerged: (1) by comparison with conifer phloem, L. abietinum mycelia contained considerable quantities of N, P, and protein; (2) L. abietinum outcompetes a ubiquitous entomopathogen for growing space in a resource-limited environment and can maintain captured space; and (3) inoculation with L. abietinum significantly reduced concentrations of a tree defensive compound, (+)-3-carene, in growth media. Collectively, these findings indicate that L. abietinum fulfills multiple ecological functions that are potentially consistent with bark beetle-fungus mutualism.
- Bark beetle
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Ecological Modeling
- Plant Science