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Plants and insect herbivores have co-evolved for ca. 400 million years and knowledge on plant defences against herbivory has accumulated rapidly during the last decades. However most of the studies investigating plant-insect interactions have considered insect herbivores as individual organisms; nonetheless insect herbivores often consist themselves in communities which include their microbiota (bacteria, fungi or viruses) but also parasitic invertebrates (parasitic wasps, worms). Such so-called herbivoreassociated organisms (HAOs) may play an important role in the expression of the herbivore’s phenotype and consequently on interactions of the herbivore with its food plant. In my project, HAOs are experimentally manipulated in the lepidopteran pest Spodoptera littoralis to focus on the role played by parasitic wasp larvae and their associated polydnaviruses as hidden players in plant-insect interactions. Based on the knowledge that the wasp and its associated virus modulate herbivore growth and food consumption, we try to combine ecological and molecular approaches to investigate if polydnaviruses affect plant-insect interactions via direct and/or indirect effects.
I have a broad interest for insect ecology, plant-insect interaction, intraguild interactions, chemical ecology and biological pest control. I use natural enemies, especially parasitoids and hyper-parasitoids, as model study organisms. I am particularly interested in understanding the host location process adopted by parasitoid species when competing for a shared host. I recently started to be also interested in the role played by insect-associated symbionts in plant-mediated interactions.
Zhu F, Cusumano A, Bloem J, Weldegergis BT, Villela A, Fatouros NE, van Loon JJA, Dicke M, Harvey JA, Vogel H, Poelman EH (2018). Symbiotic polydnavirus and venom reveal parasitoid to its hyperparasitoids. PNAS, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1717904115
Cusumano A, Zhu F, Volkoff AN, Verbaarschot P, Bloem J, Vogel H, Dicke M, Poelman EH (2018). Parasitic wasp-associated symbiont affects plant-mediated species interactions between herbivores. Ecology Letters, https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.12952
Cusumano A, Peri E, & Colazza S, 2016. Interspecific competition/facilitation among insect parasitoids. Current Opinion in Insect Science, 14, 12-16
Cusumano A, Weldegergis, BT, Colazza S, Dicke M & Fatouros NE, 2015. Attraction of egg-killing parasitoids toward induced plant volatiles in a multi-herbivore context. Oecologia, 179, 163-174.
Peri E, Cusumano A, Amodeo V, Wajnberg E & Colazza S, 2014. Intraguild interactions between two egg parasitoids of a true bug in semi-field and field conditions. PloS ONE, 9:e99876. Doi: 10.1371/journal. pone.0099876.