Tripartite symbiosis of plant-weevil-bacteria is a widespread phenomenon in the Negev Desert

Nitsan Bar-Shmuel, Elena Rogovin, Shimon Rachmilevitch, Ariel Leib Leonid Friedman, Oren Shelef, Ishai Hoffmann, Tamir Rosenberg, Adi Behar, Reut Shavit, Fengqun Meng, Michal Segoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The weevil Conorhynchus palumbus develops in a mud chamber affixed to the roots of the summer annual plant Salsola inermis in the Negev Desert of Israel. The weevil carries nitrogen fixing bacteria, and evidence suggests that plants with weevils utilize the fixed nitrogen. To characterize the distribution, abundance and significance of this unique interaction, we surveyed Salsola plants in 16 sites throughout the Negev Desert. We excavated ~100 plants from each site, recorded the presence of weevils in their roots, and characterized the soil properties in each site. Weevil mud chambers were present in all of the sampled sites and their abundance was positively correlated with soil nitrogen content and with plant size, and negatively correlated with soil grain-size. Intriguingly, we found two additional weevil species-Menecleonus virgatus and Maximus mimosae-residing in mud chambers on Salsola roots, and found one additional Salsola species-S. incanescens-accommodating weevils. Nitrogen fixing bacteria were found in weevil larvae of the two additional species and at multiple sites. Overall, our findings suggest that potentially beneficial associations between weevils and plants may be more common than previously acknowledged, and may play an important role in this desert ecosystem.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number2420
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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