The Role of Microorganisms in TRI-Trophic Interactions in Systems Consisting of Plants, Herbivores, and Carnivores

  • Marcel Dicke


Ecosystems comprise populations of individuals at different trophic levels that are connected through many interactions. In studies of insect-plant interactions, macroorganisms have been almost exclusively the focus. Yet, for many of the interactions in multitrophic systems, examples are available showing that microorganisms mediate interactions that were originally thought to occur between macroorganisms. This relates to a variety of aspects, including production of toxins, detoxification of toxins, provisioning of essential nutrients, induction of plant defense mechanism, production of information-conveying chemicals (“infochemicals”), etc. Microorganisms may function as external or internal symbionts, as pathogens, or as mutualists of plants, herbivorous arthropods, or carnivorous arthropods. This review shows that it is essential to investigate interactions between macroorganisms in more detail in order to identify precisely those organisms that interact. In doing so, we obtain a better understanding of the selective forces that operate in ecosystems, because selection in microorganisms results in much faster changes than selection in arthropods and plants, because of the significantly shorter generation time of microorganisms.


Trophic Level Bark Beetle Parasitic Wasp Tritrophic Interaction Symbiotic Microorganism 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcel Dicke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyWageningen Agricultural UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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