The role of mites in insect-fungus associations
The interactions among insects, mites, and fungi are diverse and complex but poorly understood in most cases. Associations among insects, mites, and fungi span an almost incomprehensible array of ecological interactions and evolutionary histories. Insects and mites often share habitats and resources and thus interact within communities. Many mites and insects rely on fungi for nutrients, and fungi benefit from them with regard to spore dispersal, habitat provision, or nutrient resources. Mites have important impacts on community dynamics, ecosystem processes, and biodiversity within many insect-fungus systems. Given that mites are understudied but highly abundant, they likely have bigger, more important, and more widespread impacts on communities than previously recognized. We describe mutualistic and antagonistic effects of mites on insect-fungus associations, explore the processes that underpin ecological and evolutionary patterns of these multipartite communities, review well-researched examples of the effects of mites on insect-fungus associations, and discuss approaches for studying mites within insect-fungus communities.