On the biology of Holopothrips chaconi sp.n. (Thysanoptera: Phlaeothripinae) from leaf-vein galls on Piper species (Piperaceae) in Costa Rica
Most species of the Neotropical genus Holopothrips are associated with plant galls but very little are known about their biology. Here, we provide observations on the biology of a new species of Holopothrips associated with leaf-vein galls on four species of Piper at a cloud forest site (Zurquí de Moravia) in Costa Rica. This species colonized the galls soon after the gall-inducing cecidomyiid or one of its parasitoids emerged, and several generations of thrips appeared to occupy the empty galls. A total of 175 empty galls from 34 leaves were collected, brought to the laboratory for dissection under the microscope, and the contents quantified. Holopothrips occupied approximately 75 % of the galled leaves and among the latter they occupied about 40 % of the galls. Every combination of adults, nymphs and eggs was found, which implies that adult thrips move in and out of galls, and possibly do not defend their galls from invasion by other members of their species. However, when disturbed, both nymphs and adults raise the tip of their abdomen and emit a distinctive odor, suggesting a defensive reaction against potential predators. Preliminary evidence suggests that they feed on gall tissue lining the inner cavity and spend very little time outside the galls. The thrips is described as a new species, and is one of only four known species of Holopothrips to have the unusual condition of two pairs of epimeral setae on the pronotum. This new species was compared to the other three Holothrips species, and the remarkable variation of the female spermatheca and the male sternal pore is illustrated. Further research is needed to confirm that several generations of thrips occupy empty galls, to determine whether adult thrips do indeed move between galls, and to explore in greater detail their possible chemical defense.