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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Chemistry Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #340175

Research Project: Insect, Nematode, and Plant Semiochemical Communication Systems

Location: Chemistry Research

Title: Risk taking of educated nematodes

item Willett, Denis
item Alborn, Hans
item STELINSKI, LUKASZ - University Of Florida
item Shapiro Ilan, David

Submitted to: PLOS ONE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/16/2018
Publication Date: 10/25/2018
Citation: Willett, D.S., Alborn, H.T., Stelinski, L.L., Shapiro Ilan, D.I. 2018. Risk taking of educated nematodes. PLoS One. 13(10):e0205804.

Interpretive Summary: Insect pests feeding on plant roots belowground cause billions of dollars of damage annually to fruit tree, turf grass, and row crops. Control of these belowground insect pests can be difficult due to a lack of persistent, effective pesticides. Scientists at the USDA-ARS CMAVE Chemistry Research Unit and USDA-ARS Fruit and Nut Research Laboratory in collaboration with University of Florida colleagues have been developing effective control strategies for belowground pests using tiny roundworms called entomopathogenic nematodes. These scientists have developed a way to train these tiny roundworms to increase their effectiveness in controlling belowground insect pests by exposing the roundworms to odors from the environment where the roundworms will encounter the pest. This exposure stimulates the roundworms to infect the insect pests in larger numbers, thereby improving pest control. These techniques developed by the USDA-ARS and University of Florida scientists give growers a way to more effectively manage difficult to control belowground insect pests without using pesticides.

Technical Abstract: Nematode parasites rely on successful host infection to perpetuate their species. Infection by individual nematode parasites can be risky, however; any one individual could be killed by the host’s immune response. Here we use a model system to show that environmental cues and parasite past experience can be used by entomopathogenic nematodes to reduce individual risk of infection. Past parasite experience can more than double the infective virulence (number of host invaders) of a given cohort of entomopathogenic nematode parasites. This plasticity in individual parasite risk-taking and associated infection can be used to manage infection of parasitic nematodes: enhancing biological control with entomopathogenic nematodes and developing behavioral and chemical strategies to reduce infection by vertebrate and plant parasitic nematodes.