Perspectives on the Behavior of Entomopathogenic Nematodes from Dispersal to Reproduction: Traits Contributing to Nematode Fitness and Biocontrol Efficacy


  • Christine T. Griffin


The entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN) Heterorhabditis and Steinernema are widely used for the biological control of insect pests and are gaining importance as model organisms for studying parasitism and symbiosis. In this paper recent advances in the understanding of EPN behavior are reviewed. The ‘‘foraging strategy’’ paradigm (distinction between species with ambush and cruise strategies) as applied to EPN is being challenged and alternative paradigms proposed. Infection decisions are based on condition of the potential host, and it is becoming clear that already-infected and even long-dead hosts may be invaded, as well as healthy live hosts. The state of the infective juvenile (IJ) also influences infection, and evidence for a phased increase in infectivity of EPN species is mounting. The possibility of social behavior - adaptive interactions between IJs outside the host - is discussed. EPNs’ symbiotic bacteria (Photorhabdus and Xenorhabdus) are important for killing the host and rendering it suitable for nematode reproduction, but may reduce survival of IJs, resulting in a trade-off between survival and reproduction. The symbiont also contributes to defence of the cadaver by affecting food-choice decisions of insect and avian scavengers. I review EPN reproductive behavior (including sperm competition, copulation and evidence for attractive and organizational effects of pheromones), and consider the role of endotokia matricida as parental behavior exploited by the symbiont for transmission.






Invited Symposium Papers on Entomopathogenic Nematodes Presented at the 2011 Society of Nematologists Annual Meeting