Mite communities within Protea infructescences in South Africa

Theron, Natalie (2011-03)

Thesis (MScConEcol)--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The role of mites as primary vectors of various fungi within Protea infructescences was recently confirmed and raised questions about their general diversity and their role within this unique niche. Although mites evidently form an integral part of Fynbos ecosystems and probably play a significant role in Protea population dynamics, there is a general void in our knowledge of mite diversity within the Cape Floristic Region. These organisms do not only affect ecological processes within the CFR, but also the economic value of Protea exports. This study sets out to describe mite communities within the infructescences of a variety Protea species. In the process, the role of various environmental variables and differences in host characteristics affecting these communities are also explored. A total of 24281 mite individuals, comprising of 36 morphospecies in 23 families, were collected from 16 surveyed Protea spp. Mite community structure and composition were significantly influenced by plant taxonomy, phenology and infructescence architecture in different Protea spp. At a temporal scale, infructescence age and season were influential factors on mite community structure. Collection locality significantly influenced mite communities within the infructescences of a single Protea sp. Host architecture had no influence on mite communities within a single host species. Geographic distance had no significant influence on mite community structure within Protea infructescences. This implies that factors particular to particular host species determine mite communities. These include factors such as the mode of pollination of the host plant, level of serotiny and plant life form. Numerous newly recorded mite species collected from Protea infructescences are also described in this study. An identification key to the Tydeidoidae of South Africa is provided here for the first time. This study forms a baseline dataset for future studies on the biodiversity of mites in this extremely diverse eco-region.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die rol van myte as primêre vektore van verskeie funguses binne Protea vrugtekoppe is onlangs bevestig, en het vrae laat ontstaan oor hulle algemene diversiteit en rol binne hierdie unieke nis. Alhoewel myte duidelik ‘n integrale deel vorm van Fynbos ekosisteme en waarskynlik ‘n belangrike rol speel in Protea populasie-dinamika, is daar ‘n algemene leemte in ons kennis van mytdiversiteit binne die Kaapse Floristiese Ryk (KFR). Hierdie organismes affekteer nie slegs ekologiese prosesse binne die KFR nie, maar ook die ekonomiese waarde van Protea-uitvoere. Hierdie studie mik as vertrekpunt om die verkillende myt-gemeenskappe binne die vrugtekoppe van verskeie Protea spesies te beskryf. In die proses is die rol van verskillende omgewingsveranderlikes en verskille in gasheer kenmerke wat hierdie gemeenskappe affekteer, ook ondersoek. ‘n Totaal van 24281 myt individue, saamgestel uit 36 morfspesies in 23 families, mytgemeenskappe is beduidende beinvloed deur die taksonomie van die plant, die fenologie en die vrugtekop-argitektuur van verskillende Protea spesies. Op ‘n temporale skaal is gevind dat vrugtekop-ouderdom en seisoen beduidende faktore is in die samestelling van mytgemeenskapstruktuur. Versamel-lokaliteit het verder mytgemeenskappe binne die vrugtekoppe mytgemeenskappe binne ‘n enkele gasheerspesie getoon nie. Geografiese afstand het geen beduidende invloed op mytgemeenskapstruktuur binne Protea vrugtekoppe getoon nie. Dit faktore in soos die metode van bestuiwing van die gasheer plant, die vlak van saadhoudendheid van die Protea koppe en plant-lewensvorm. Verskeie nuwe myt spesies wat uit Protea vrugtekoppe versamel is, word ook in hierdie studie beskryf. ‘n Identifikasie-sleutel vir die Tydeidoidae van Suid-Afrika word verder vir die eerste keer hier verskaf. Hierdie studie vorm die basis datastel vir toekomstige studies van die biodiversiteit van myte in hierdie besonder diverse eko-omgewing.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/6816
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