The introduction and establishment of an invasive species in a new habitat represents a major threat to biodiversity and ecosystem structure. A recent example of a mite that has become an invasive species is the red palm mite, Raoiella indica Hirst (Acari: Tenuipalpidae). After its introduction in the Americas, this species has considerably expanded the number of hosts and has been reported as a key pest of some of these. In the present study we investigated the possibility of mitefauna alteration on coconut leaflets (abundance and diversity) mediated by the introduction and establishment of R. indica. A survey was conducted over a period of 1 year in two areas of coconut cultivation: one infested and one free of R. indica. The results of the present study suggest that the introduction of R. indica modifies the mitefauna existing in coconut leaflets. Differences were detected in the abundance and diversity of mites at the level of the taxonomic categories (family and species) and at the level of the trophic groups (predators, herbivores and mites with undefined feeding mode). Additionally, in plants infested by the invasive species, a similar pattern was observed between the fluctuation of the phytoseiid mites and other tenuipalpid mites. In these plants, the density of the tenuipalpid mites (including R. indica) was also the variable that most contributed to explain the fluctuation of phytoseiid mites. This suggests that the invasive species, R. indica, acts as a keystone species, structuring the mitefauna in coconut plants.
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Vol. 25 • No. 5