The interaction of a Botanophila fly species with an exotic Epichloë fungus in a cultivated grass: Fungivore or mutualist?

Sujaya Rao, Denise Baumann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Epichloë spp. (Ascomycetes: Clavicipitaceae) are endophytic fungii of Pooid grasses that cause choke disease, the suppression of seed production. They also host Botanophila spp. (Diptera: Anthomyiidae), the larvae of which feed on the fungus. Studies on Epichloë elymi on wild grasses indicate that the flies transfer spermatia between Epichloë mating types, thereby affecting cross-fertilization, suggesting that the fungus-fly interaction reflects obligatory mutualism. Epichloë typhina, inadvertently introduced into western USA, was first detected in cultivated Dactylis glomerata L. fields in 1996. It spread rapidly, raising concerns about impacts on seed production. The present study was conducted to address questions pertaining to the occurrence and nature of the fungus-fly interaction in the new habitat of E. typhina. The first report of an endemic Botanophila species associated with E. typhina in Oregon is presented here. Surveys of D. glomerata fields indicated no correlation between fly abundance and fungal fertilization. In one field, no fly eggs or larvae were detected, but fertilized stromata were universally present. The fly was established in the remaining 12 fields surveyed, but while the number of stromata with fly larvae ranged from 6 to 98%, stromata development was uniform. Up to 10 larvae were present on a stroma, and these consumed >90% of the perithecia. Comparisons of pupal weights indicated that the fungal resource was not limiting, even at high larval densities. An exclusion study in a D. glomerata field also indicated that E. typhina fertilization occurred without the fly. In Oregon, the fly clearly benefits from the association with the fungus, but there is no evidence of benefit to the fungus. Thus if obligatory mutualism in the fungus-fly relationship described from the midwestern USA is the norm, our studies suggest a shift in the interaction to one of simple foraging on the fungus by fly larvae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-105
Number of pages7
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2004


  • Anthomyiidae
  • Ascomycetes
  • Choke disease
  • Clavicipitaceae
  • Diptera
  • Endemic fly
  • Epichloë
  • Exotic fungus
  • Fungus fertilization
  • Orchard grass
  • Oregon
  • Typhina fungus-fly interaction


Dive into the research topics of 'The interaction of a Botanophila fly species with an exotic Epichloë fungus in a cultivated grass: Fungivore or mutualist?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this