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Fungal infections lead to shifts in thermal tolerance and voluntary exposure to extreme temperatures in both prey and predator insects

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  • Mitzy F. Porras, Pennsylvania State University
  • ,
  • Gustavo A. Agudelo-Cantero, Universidade de Sao Paulo
  • ,
  • M. Geovanni Santiago-Martínez, Pennsylvania State University
  • ,
  • Carlos A. Navas, Universidade de Sao Paulo
  • ,
  • Volker Loeschcke
  • Jesper Givskov Sørensen
  • Edwin G. Rajotte, Pennsylvania State University

Pathogens can modify many aspects of host behavior or physiology with cascading impacts across trophic levels in terrestrial food webs. These changes include thermal tolerance of hosts, however the effects of fungal infections on thermal tolerances and behavioral responses to extreme temperatures (ET) across trophic levels have rarely been studied. We examined how a fungal pathogen, Beauveria bassiana, affects upper and lower thermal tolerance, and behavior of an herbivorous insect, Acyrthosiphon pisum, and its predator beetle, Hippodamia convergens. We compared changes in thermal tolerance limits (CTMin and CTMax), thermal boldness (voluntary exposure to ET), energetic cost (ATP) posed by each response (thermal tolerance and boldness) between healthy insects and insects infected with two fungal loads. Fungal infection reduced CTMax of both aphids and beetles, as well as CTMin of beetles. Fungal infection modified the tendency, or boldness, of aphids and predator beetles to cross either warm or cold ET zones (ETZ). ATP levels increased with pathogen infection in both insect species, and the highest ATP levels were found in individuals that crossed cold ETZ. Fungal infection narrowed the thermal tolerance range and inhibited thermal boldness behaviors to cross ET. As environmental temperatures rise, response to thermal stress will be asymmetric among members of a food web at different trophic levels, which may have implications for predator–prey interactions, food web structures, and species distributions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21710
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

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