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Oecologia. 1995 Aug;103(2):255-260. doi: 10.1007/BF00329088.

Fungal endophytes which invade insect galls: insect pathogens, benign saprophytes, or fungal inquilines?

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Department of Zoology, Arizona State University, 85287, Tempe, AZ, USA.


Fungi are frequently found within insect galls. However, the origin of these fungi, whether they are acting as pathogens, saprophytes invading already dead galls, or fungal inquilines which invade the gall but kill the gall maker by indirect means, is rarely investigated. A pathogenic role for these fungi is usually inferred but never tested. I chose the following leaf-galling-insect/host-plant pairs (1) a cynipid which forms two-chambered galls on the veins of Oregon white oak, (2) a cynipid which forms single-chambered galls on California coast live oak, and (3) an aphid which forms galls on narrowleaf cottonwood leaves. All pairs were reported to have fungi associated with dead insects inside the gall. These fungi were cultured and identified. For the two cynipids, all fungi found inside the galls were also present in the leaves as fungal endophytes. The cottonwood leaves examined did not harbor fungal endophytes. For the cynipid on Oregon white oak, the fungal endophyte grows from the leaf into the gall and infects all gall tissue but does not directly kill the gall maker. The insect dies as a result of the gall tissue dying from fungal infection. Therefore, the fungus acts as an inquiline. Approximately 12.5% of these galls die as a result of invasion by the fungal endophyte.


Cynipid wasps; Discula quercina; Fungal endophytes; Gall insects; Parasites


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