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Phytochemistry-mediated disruption of ant-aphid interactions by root-feeding nematodes

Cite this dataset

Pringle, Elizabeth; Mundim, Fabiane (2020). Phytochemistry-mediated disruption of ant-aphid interactions by root-feeding nematodes [Dataset]. Dryad.


Plants link interactions between aboveground and belowground organisms. Herbivore-induced changes in plant chemistry are hypothesized to impact entire food webs by changing the strength of trophic cascades. Yet few studies have explored how belowground herbivores affect the behaviors of generalist predators, nor how such changes may act through diverse changes to the plant metabolome. Using a factorial experiment, we tested whether herbivory by root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne incognita) affected the aboveground interaction among milkweed plants (Asclepias fascicularis or Asclepias speciosa), oleander aphids (Aphis nerii), and aphid-tending ants (Linepithema humile). We quantified the behaviors of aphid-tending ants, and we measured the effects of herbivore treatments on aphid densities and on phytochemistry. Unexpectedly, ants tended aphids primarily on the leaves of uninfected plants, whereas ants tended aphids primarily at the base of the stem of nematode-infected plants. In nematode-infected plants, aphids excreted more sugar per capita in their ant-attracting honeydew. Additionally, although plant chemistry was species-specific, nematode infection generally decreased the richness of plant secondary metabolites while acting as a protein sink in the roots. Path analysis indicated that the ants’ behavioral change was driven in part by indirect effects of nematodes acting through changes in plant chemistry. We conclude that belowground herbivores can affect the behaviors of aboveground generalist ant predators by multiple paths, including changes in phytochemistry, which may affect the attractiveness of aphid honeydew rewards.


Please see Methods section of corresponding dataset.

Usage notes

Please see README_MundimPringleOecologia2020.txt


University of Nevada Reno

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation