Phoresy is a symbiotic interaction that results in dispersal, benefiting the relocated organism without negatively impacting the phoretic host. It has long been considered that phoresy among astigmatid mites is somehow an intermediate precursor to the evolution of parasitism within the group. In astigmatid mites, only the heteromorphic deutonymph (hypopode) participates in phoretic dispersal, and the plesiomorphic hypopode may be the key to understanding the dynamics of the evolution of that parasitism. Hypopodes of Hemisarcoptes cooremani (Acari: Acariformes) and their phoretic beetle host Chilocorus cacti (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) have become the experimental focus for studies concerned with the potential forces that influence the transition of a free-living life style into various coevolved relationships. Previous radiolabeling studies applied to H. cooremani and C. cacti determined that hypopodes of H. cooremani acquired resources from adults of C. cacti while in transit, negating the paradigm that the heteromorphy was purely phoretic. To further probe this relationship, we tested whether materials could be passed from the mites to their hosts. We report here a study using a tritium radiolabel, which indicated that beetles also acquire resources from the hypopodes. These results have implications for understanding the complex relationship between H. cooremani and C. cacti. We propose that this relationship should now correctly be defined as mutualistic (not phoretic) and develop a general model for the potential role of parasitism in the evolution of mutualism among the Astigmata.
- Biological control
- Tritium radiolabeling