The influence of habitat quality on the foraging strategies of the entomopathogenic nematodes Steinernema carpocapsae and Heterorhabditis megidis
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Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN) are soil-transmitted parasites and their foraging strategies are believed to range from ‘ambush’ to ‘cruise’ foragers. However, research on their behaviour has not considered the natural habitat of these nematodes. We hypothesized that EPN behaviour would be influenced by soil habitat quality and tested this hypothesis using 2 EPN species Steinernema carpocapsae (an ‘ambusher’) and Heterorhabditis megidis (a ‘cruiser’) in 2 contrasting habitats, sand and peat. As predicted from previous studies, in sand most S. carpocapsae remained at the point of application and showed no taxis towards hosts, but in peat S. carpocapsae dispersed much more and showed a highly significant taxis towards hosts. H. megidis dispersed well in both media, but only showed taxis towards hosts in sand. In outdoor mesocosms in which both species were applied, S. carpocapsae outcompeted H. megidis in terms of host finding in peat, whereas the opposite was true in sand. Our data suggest that these 2 EPN may be habitat specialists and highlight the difficulties of studying soil-transmitted parasites in non-soil media.
Kruitbos, L.M., et al. 2010. The influence of habitat quality on the foraging strategies of the entomopathogenic nematodes Steinernema carpocapsae and Heterorhabditis megidis. Parasitology. 137(2): pp.303-309. Available at DOI: 10.1017/S0031182009991326