Ecology of Trichoderma nutrition

Trichoderma spp. can feed on plant and fungal substrates. Image credit: FungiG 2020.

The page is based on the supplementary material S1 for Druzhinina et al., 2018

Feeding types of filamentous Ascomycota fungi with a special note regarding the orders Hypocreales and Trichoderma

              The history of fungi initially being considered plants contributes to the considerable confusion regarding the use of botanical, zoological, and microbiological terms when describing fungal biology, such as terms for the assignment of their feeding types.

              The Kingdom of Fungi comprises mainly sessile heterotrophic organisms that rely on absorptive nutrition [1]. It is now confirmed that they share a last common ancestor with animals, which existed at least one billion years ago [2] or even earlier [3].

              To avoid confusion related to terminology, we specify the meaning of the technical ecological terms that describe Trichoderma nutrition (below). We follow the scheme of Getz (2012) [4], which is based on the distinction between

(i) eating live or dead biomass and

(ii) consumers of animals, plants, or fungi.

It is also essential to distinguish between generalists (capable of feeding on any of listed resources) and specialists (feeding on a particular food source).

Moreover, following the suggestion of Getz (2012), we attribute filamentous Ascomycota fungi to miners because he describes them as “relatively sessile in locally exploiting a resource mass larger than themselves” compared to gatherers, which are “relatively mobile in searching out and consuming or sequestering packets of resources.”

Because the terms indicating feeding types of gatherers are based on the Latin “vorus” (to swallow), we avoid using such terms as carnivorous, fungivorous, and herbivorous. However, we should note that the above-mentioned terms are frequently applied to fungi [5-8].

              We use the term parasite to refer to any organism that feeds on a live biomass of any type. Mechanisms of interactions, interactions types, and benefits and losses for individual partners are not considered here. Consequently, frequently used terms referring to pathogenicity (entomopathogen, plant pathogen, etc.) are not used. Feeding on dead biomass is described using terms based on the Greek word “phagos” (to eat), while the terms based on the Greek word “trophe” (food, nourishment) are used to describe the act of feeding on life or dead biomass.

              We also note that the term “environmental opportunist,” which has been recently attributed to some Trichoderma species [9], does not specifically mean nutritional versatility. It also includes the ability to rapidly grow and resist environmental stresses. Consequently, the term “generalist” is used for nutritional versatility on dead or live biomass, while “parasite” and “polyphags” describe each of the latter two types of biomass, respectively.

The list of terms describing feeding types of filamentous Ascomycota fungi

Substrate state: Live – >Parasite

Insects sensu lato -> Entomoparasite

Here a colloquial meaning of insects is used: insect may apply to any small arthropod similar to an insect including spiders, centipedes, millipedes, etc     

Moths [10], aphids [11], bed bugs [12], corn borer [13]

Fungi  -> Mycoparasite   

May also include necrotrophic parasites of fungi

Broad spectrum [9, 14-19]

Plants -> Phytoparasite

The term may also include plant pathogenic organisms, croppers and also endophytes as symptomless parasites of plants.

Mainly endophyte [20-25] , rarely plant pathogen [26]

Plants and/or fungi and/or animals -> Parasite

Feeding on live biomass of any type, biotrophy

Immunocompromised and immunocompetent humans [27, 28], nematodes [29-31]

Substrate state: Dead -> Greek: phagos = eat

Insects sensu lato  -> Sarcophage, necrophage

May include necrotrophic parasitism

Moths [32], aphids [33], bed bugs [34], corn borer [35]

Fungi -> Mycophage

Also includes necrotrophic mycoparasites           


Plants -> Phytophage, Saprophytophage

xylophagous fungi are capable to degrade lignin (not relevant to Trichoderma) .

Dead wood and herbaceous biomass [9, 36-38]

Plants and/or fungi and/or animals -> Polyphage

Saprotrophic nutrition  


Fungi -> Mycotrophy

All kinds of feeding on fungi and fungal biomass


Animal, fungi and plants -> Nutritional versatility, Generalism

If at least two types of resources may be equally well consumed         



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