Interactions Among Scolytid Bark Beetles, Their Associated Fungi, and Live Host Conifers

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Annual Review of Entomology

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Scolytid bark beetles that colonize living conifers are frequently associated with specific fungi that are carried in specialized structures or on the body surface. These fungi are introduced into the tree during the attack process. The continuing association suggests that there is mutual benefit to the fitness of both beetles and fungi. The fungal species may benefit from the association with the beetles by transport to new host trees. Beetle species may benefit from the association with fungi by feeding on the fungi, or by the fungi contributing to the death of the host trees through mycelial penetration of host tissue, toxin release, interactions with preformed and induced conifer defenses, or the combined action of both beetles and fungi during colonization. Extensive research has been directed towards characterizing the interactions of beetle-fungal complexes with live host conifers and determining the ecological advantages for maintaining the associations. However, differences among systems and how species interact under different population and environmental conditions make it difficult to generalize about the importance of the separate biological components in successful host colonization.