The Ambrosia gall midge [Asteromyia carbonifera (Osten Sacken) (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae: Alycaulini)] consists, in part, of a complex of genetically differentiated populations that have diverged in gall morphology on the host plant Solidago altissima L. (Asteraceae). This divergence appears to be an incipient adaptive radiation that may be driven by parasitoid pressure. Understanding the mechanisms driving this genetic and phenotypic diversification requires a close examination of the relationship between the midge and its fungal associate Botryosphaeria dothidea (Moug.) Ces. & De Not. (Ascomycota: Dothideomycetes), whose mycelia actually form the protective gall structure. We used manipulative experiments to test the degree of interdependency of the fungus and the midge, and we employed field and laboratory studies to gain insight into the source of fungal conidia, which our data and observations indicate are collected by females and stored in specialized pockets (mycangia) on the ovipositor. Manipulative experiments demonstrate that fungal proliferation on the host plant is dependent on the midge larvae and larvae exhibit significant growth on the fungus alone. Field observations and experiments were unable to identify the source of mycangial conidia; however, analyses of conidia shape suggest a biotrophic source. We conclude that this association is an obligatory mutualism with respect to successful gall formation. These findings corroborate recent findings that the primary food source of the midge is the gall fungus.
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