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Oecologia. 2007 Jun;152(3):541-51. Epub 2007 Mar 14.

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi reduce the construction of extrafloral nectaries in Vicia faba.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) can alter the physiology and morphology of their host plant, and therefore may have indirect effects on insect herbivores and pollinators. We conducted this study to test the hypothesis that AMF can also affect insects involved in protection-for-food mutualisms. We examined the constitutive and inducible production of food rewards [extrafloral (EF) nectaries] in Vicia faba plants by manipulating the presence/absence of AMF and by simulating various levels of herbivory. Plants inoculated with AMF produced significantly fewer EF nectaries than uninoculated plants, even after accounting for differences in plant growth. In contrast to earlier studies, EF nectaries were not inducible: damaged plants produced significantly fewer EF nectaries than undamaged plants. Moreover, the effects of mycorrhizal and damage status on EF nectary production were additive. The reduction in EF nectaries in mycorrhizal plants potentially represents a mechanism for indirect effects of AMF on the protective insects that exploit EF nectaries as a food source (e.g., ants). Reduced reward size should result in reduced protection by ants, and could therefore be a previously unappreciated cost of the mycorrhizal symbiosis to host plants. However, the overall effect of AMF will depend upon the extent to which the reduction of EF nectaries affects the number and activity of ants and the extent to which AMF alter other aspects of host plant physiology. Our results emphasize the complexity of multitrophic interactions, particularly those that span belowground and aboveground ecology.

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