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Parasitic mites as part-time bodyguards of a host wasp.


ABSTRACT: Some bees and wasps that host mites have peculiar pocket-like structures called acarinaria. These have long been considered as morphological adaptations to securely transfer beneficial mites into nests, and thus are thought to be the product of a mutualistic relationship. However, there has been little compelling evidence to support this hypothesis. We demonstrated that the parasitic mite Ensliniella parasitica, which uses acarinaria, increases the reproductive success of its host wasp Allodynerus delphinalis by protecting it from parasitoid wasps. Every time the parasitoid Melittobia acasta accessed a prepupal or pupal wasp host cell, adult mites attacked it, continuously clinging to it and possibly piercing the intersegmental membrane of the parasitoid with their chelicerae. Subsequent mortality of the parasitoid depended on the number of attacking mites: an average of six mites led to a 70% chance of mortality, and 10 mites led to a 100% chance of mortality. In this way, parent mites protect the food source (juvenile wasps) for themselves and ultimately for their offspring. We propose that wasps evolved acarinaria to maintain this protective guarding behaviour.

SUBMITTER: Okabe K 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC2603248 | BioStudies | 2008-01-01T00:00:00Z

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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