Mites are the most common vectors of the fungus Gondwanamyces proteae in Protea infructescences
Entomochoric spore dispersal is well-documented for most ophiostomatoid fungal genera, most of which are associated with bark or ambrosia beetles. Gondwanamyces spp. are unusual members of this group that were first discovered in the flower heads of the primitive angiosperm genus Protea, that is mostly restricted to the Cape Floristic region of Africa. In this study, we present the discovery of the vectors of Gondwanamyces proteae in Protea repens infructescences, which were identified using PCR, direct isolation, and light microscopy. Gondwanamyces proteae DNA and ascospores were identified on diverse lineages of arthropods including beetles (Euderes lineicolis and Genuchus hottentottus), bugs (Oxycarenus maculates), a psocopteran species and five mite (Acari) species. Based on isolation frequency, however, a mite species in the genus Trichouropoda appears to be the most common vector of G. proteae. Gondwanamyces spores were frequently observed within pit mycangia at the base of the legs of these mites. Manipulative experiments demonstrated the ability of mites to carry viable G. proteae spores whilst in transit on the beetle G. hottentottus and that these mites are able to transfer G. proteae spores to uncolonised substrates in vitro. Interestingly, this same mite species has also been implicated as vector of Ophiostoma spores on P. repens and belongs to the same genus of mites that vector Ophiostoma spp. associated with pine-infesting bark beetles in the Northern Hemisphere. © 2011 The British Mycological Society.