Volatile-mediated communication in fungus-fungivore interactions

Within the scope of my doctoral thesis I am investigating volatile-mediated interactions between fungi and fungivorous soil arthropods by focusing on the importance of fungal volatile organic compounds as infochemicals for fungivores during foraging. Fungi are subject to a variety of antagonistic impacts by other organisms in their surroundings, including fungivores such as collembola or isopods. During my bachelor thesis I could show that the profitability of a fungus as food resource for fungivores strongly depends on the fungus' ability to produce secondary metabolites. Other studies of our research group could show that fungal toxins and volatile repellents can influence the attraction of a fungus for fungivores and act as constitutive and/or induced defense (e.g. Caballero Ortiz 2013; Döll et al. 2013). I hypothesize that fungivores are able to find and discriminate potential fungal food resources from a distance by perceiving and evaluating fungal derived olfactory signals. Thus, I expect that fungal volatiles are of major importance for interactions between fungi and fungivores.

Main questions are:

Is variation in the release of fungal volatiles related to volatile-mediated fungivore foraging behavior?

Do fungal volatiles play a role in constitutive or induced defense and protection of fungi against fungivory?

In a first step, I measure volatile profiles of different fungal species, genotypes and growth stages. Additionally, a special focus is placed on the effect of fungal tissue wounding (a direct consequence of fungivore grazing) on fungal volatile profiles. In a second step, behavioral experiments with collembola and isopods are carried out (mainly by video tracking) to find out how variation in fungal volatile profiles affects fungivore foraging behavior.

This project is funded by a scholarship of the Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst.


Stötefeld L, Holighaus G, Schütz S, Rohlfs M. 2015. Volatile-mediated location of mutualist host and toxic non-host microfungi by Drosophila larvae. Chemoecology, 25: 271-283.

Stötefeld L, Scheu S, Rohlfs M. 2012 Fungal chemical defence alters density-dependent foraging behaviour and success in a fungivorous soil arthropod. Ecological Entomology, 37: 323-329.