A Phylogenetic Analysis of Heterorhabditis (Nemata: Rhabditidae) Based on Internal Transcribed Spacer 1 DNA Sequence Data


  • B. J. Adams
  • A. M. Burnell
  • T. O. Powers


Internal transcribed spacer 1 sequences were used to infer phylogenetic relationships among 8 of the 9 described species and one putative species of the entomopathogenic nematode genus Heterorhabditis. Sequences were aligned and optimized based on pairwise genetic distance and parsimony criteria and subjected to a variety of sequence alignment parameters. Phylogenetic trees were constructed with maximum parsimony, cladistic, distance, and maximum likelihood algorithms. Our results gave strong support for four pairs of sister species, while relationships between these pairs also were resolved but less well supported. The ITS1 region of the nuclear ribosomal repeat was a reliable source of homologous characters for resolving relationships between closely related taxa but provided more tenuous resolution among more divergent lineages. A high degree of sequence identity and lack of autapomorphic characters suggest that sister species pairs within three distinct lineages may be mutually conspecific. Application of these molecular data and current morphological knowledge to the delimitation of species is hindered by an incomplete understanding of their variability in natural populations. Key words: entomopathogenic nematode, evolution, Heterorhabditis, ITS1, nematode, phylogenetic analysis, ribosomal DNA, species concepts.