Evolution of Parasitism in Insect-transmitted Plant Nematodes


  • R. M. Giblin-Davis
  • K. A. Davies
  • K. Morris
  • W. K. Thomas


aphelenchida, bursaphelenchus cocophilus, bursaphelenchus xylophilus, evolution, fergusobia spp., plant-parasitism, schistonchus spp., tritrophic associations, tylenchida


Nematode-insect associations have evolved many times in the phylum Nematoda, but these lineages involve plant parasitism only in the Secernentean orders Aphelenchida and Tylenchida. In the Aphelenchida (Aphelenchoidoidea), Bursaphelenchus xylophilus (Pine wood nematode), B. cocophilus (Red ring or Coconut palm nematode) (Parasitaphelenchidae), and the many potential host-specific species of Schistonchus (fig nematodes) (Aphelenchoididae) nematode-insect interactions probably evolved independently from dauer-forming, mycophagous ancestors that were phoretically transmitted to breeding sites of their insect hosts in plants. Mycophagy probably gave rise to facultative or obligate plant-parasitism because of opportunities due to insect host switches or peculiarities in host behavior. In the Tylenchida, there is one significant radiation of insect-associated plant parasites involving Fergusobia nematodes (Fergusobiinae: Neotylenchidae) and Fergusonina (Fergusoninidae) flies as mutualists that gall myrtaceous plant buds or leaves. These dicyclic nematodes have different phases that are parasitic in either the insect or the plant hosts. The evolutionary origin of this association is unclear.