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Temperature stress induces mites to help their carrion beetle hosts by eliminating rival blowflies

Citation

Sun, Syuan-Jyun; Kilner, Rebecca (2021), Temperature stress induces mites to help their carrion beetle hosts by eliminating rival blowflies, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.sj3tx961z

Abstract

Ecological conditions are known to change the expression of mutualisms though the causal agents driving such changes remain poorly understood. Here we show that temperature stress modulates the harm threatened by a common enemy, and thereby induces a phoretic mite to become a protective mutualist. Our experiments focus on the interactions between the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, an associated mite species Poecilochirus carabi and their common enemy, blowflies, when all three species reproduce on the same small vertebrate carrion. We show that mites compete with beetle larvae for food in the absence of blowflies, and reduce beetle reproductive success. However, when blowflies breed on the carrion too, mites enhance beetle reproductive success by eating blowfly eggs. High densities of mites are especially effective at promoting beetle reproductive success at higher and lower natural ranges in temperature, when blowfly larvae are more potent rivals for the limited resources on the carcass.

Funding

Society for the Study of Evolution, Award: Rosemary Grant Award

European Research Council, Award: Consolidator grant 301785 BALDWINIAN_BEETLES

Royal Society, Award: Wolfson Merit Award