ABSTRACT: Insect-induced plant galls are predominantly reputed to act as strong carbon sinks, although many types of galls contain chlorophyll and have the potential to photosynthesize. We investigated whether the photosynthetic capacity of bud galls induced by a Pteromalid wasp, Trichilogaster acaciaelongifoliae, in Acacia longifolia subsidises carbon budgets or provides O(2) to the larvae while concurrently consuming CO(2) in the dense gall tissue, thereby maintaining (O(2)) and (CO(2)) within the range of larval tolerance. Low (O(2)) (<5 % v/v) were found within the internal tissues of galls, and these concentrations responded only marginally to light, suggesting that the photosynthetic activity within the gall is inconsequential in the provision of O(2) to the larvae. The metabolic response of larvae to reduced (O(2)) and elevated (CO(2)) indicated that larvae were tolerant of hypoxia/hypercarbia and also capable of reducing their respiratory rates to cope with hypercarbia. The low mortality of larvae in galls shaded with Al-foil for 20 days showed that photosynthesis was not vital for the survival of the larvae, although growth of shaded galls was substantially reduced. Gas exchange measurements confirmed that, while photosynthesis never fully compensated for the respiratory costs of galls, it contributed substantially to the maintenance and growth, especially of young galls, reducing their impact as carbon sinks on the host. We conclude that, although photosynthesis may contribute to O(2) provision, its main role is to reduce the dependence of the insect-induced gall on the host plant for photosynthates, thereby reducing intra-plant, inter-gall competition and enhancing the probability that each gall will reach maturity.
Oecologia 05/2012; · 3.41 Impact Factor