Taxonomic Affinities and Intra- and Interspecific Variation in Bursaphelenchus spp. as Determined by Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Karen Beckenbach
  • Michael J. Smith
  • John M. Webster


Identification of closely related nematode species or races can be very difficult when diagnostic characters are plastic and overlapping. In this study we describe the use of polymerase chain reaction technology and direct DNA sequencing on 19 populations of Bursaphelenchus spp. to help understand their taxonomic relationships. The 5' end of the heat shock 70A gene from Caenorhabditis elegans was used as the target DNA sequence because it contains both coding and non-coding regions. The results indicate that the 19 populations could be divided into five types within B. xylophilus and four types within B. mucronatus. On a larger scale, the data revealed three distinct groups, representing B. xylophilus from North America and Japan, B. mucronatus from Japan, and "B. mucronatus" from Europe. There is sufficient difference between the European and Japanese "B. mucronatus" groups to warrant their consideration as separate species. Key words: Bursaphelenchus mucmnatus, B. xylophilus, Caenorhabditis elegans, DNA, gene, heat shock, molecular phylogeny, nematode, pinewood nematode, polymerase chain reaction, species complex, taxonomy.