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Location: Systematic Entomology Laboratory

Title: Intimate sex-biased relationships between flies and nematodes in the Fergusonina-Fergusobia mutualism (Diptera: Fergusoninidae; Nematoda: Neotylenchidae)

item Scheffer, Sonja
item Lewis, Matthew
item Davies, K. - University Of Adelaide
item Giblin-davis, R. - University Of Florida
item Taylor, G. - University Of Adelaide

Submitted to: Australian Journal of Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/7/2012
Publication Date: 12/20/2012
Publication URL:
Citation: Scheffer, S.J., Lewis, M.L., Davies, K.A., Giblin-Davis, R.M., Taylor, G.S. 2012. Intimate sex-biased relationships between flies and nematodes in the Fergusonina-Fergusobia mutualism (Diptera: Fergusoninidae; Nematoda: Neotylenchidae). Australian Journal of Entomology. 52(2):125-128.

Interpretive Summary: Invasive species of weedy plants cause the U.S. and others hundreds of million dollars in direct losses and management costs associated with their control. The introduction of host-specific plant-feeding insects as biocontrol agents has proven to be a successful and environmentally benign approach to weed management. This study investigated obligate associations between host-specific plant-feeding flies and their nematode mutualists that have been introduced into Florida for biological control of invasive paperbark trees. This information improves our understanding of the biology and lifecycle of the biocontrol agent and will be used by biocontrol scientists, taxonomists, and evolutionary biologists.

Technical Abstract: All known species of Fergusonina flies (Fergusoninidae) participate in an obligate mutualism with Fergusobia nematode worms (Neotylenchidae). From dissections, it is believed that all adult and late-instar larval female flies carry nematodes internally, while male adults and late-instar larvae do not. We designed nematode-specific primers for PCR amplification of a portion of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidae I (COI) gene in order to screen DNA extractions from flies for the presence of nematode DNA. Consistent with evidence from dissections, we found that nearly all extractions from adult female flies screened positive for nematode DNA while none of the extractions from adult male specimens did. Nearly half of screened late-instar larvae showed evidence of nematode DNA, consistent with the finding that nematodes are only present within females.