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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Byron, Georgia » Fruit and Tree Nut Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #384770

Research Project: Novel Approaches for Managing Key Pests of Peach and Pecan

Location: Fruit and Tree Nut Research

Title: Nematodes follow a leader

item ERDOGAN, HILAL - University Of Idaho
item CRUZADO-GUTIERREZ, KARIN - University Of Idaho
item STEVENS, GLEN - University Of Idaho
item Shapiro Ilan, David
item KAPLAN, FATMA - Pheronym, Inc
item Alborn, Hans
item LEWIS, EDWIN - University Of Idaho

Submitted to: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/15/2021
Publication Date: 11/4/2021
Citation: Erdogan, H., Cruzado-Gutierrez, K., Stevens, G., Shapiro Ilan, D.I., Kaplan, F., Alborn, H.T., Lewis, E.E. 2021. Nematodes follow a leader. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 9,740351.

Interpretive Summary: Entomopathogenic nematodes, also known as beneficial nematodes, are small round worms that are used as environmentally-friendly bio-insecticides. These beneficial nematodes are used to control a wide variety of economically important pests. It is important to understand how these nematodes navigate in soil to find these pests. In previous research, we discovered that the nematodes move together in groups, like a pack of wolves seeking their prey. The mechanisms behind this group movement behavior remain to be elucidated. In this study, we discovered that the nematodes move in a behavior called "trail -following". One nematode tends to follow another, especially if the first nematode had already made contact with an insect. We assume the nematodes follow each-other based on pheromone signals but this hypothesis is still under study. Our discovery helps explain how entomopathogenic nematodes move in groups, and it is the first time trail-following was reported for all of the nematode phylum.

Technical Abstract: Aggregated movement and population structure are known in entomopathogenic nematodes, which are obligate insect parasites. Aggregation behavior in the absence of external stimuli suggests communication among individuals, often in the form of trail-following, which has not been shown by nematodes of any kind. Interactions among individuals are an essential basis of following behaviors and can have significant fitness consequences. We explored intraspecific and interspecific interactions among three Steinernema species (S. glaseri, S. carpocapsae, and S. feltiae) in terms of trail following, and fitness outcomes of following heterospecific individuals. We found that the following behavior is context dependent. Following behavior among conspecifics was significantly increased when the lead nematode had prior contact with host cuticle. However, We we did not find a clear association between the following response to heterospecific IJs and their reproductive success in a co-infected host.