Host Penetration and Emergence Patterns of the Mosquito-Parasitic Mermithids Romanomermis iyengari and Strelkovimermis spiculatus (Nematoda: Mermithidae)
AbstractRomanomermis iyengari and Strelkovimermis spiculatus are mermithid nematodes that parasitize mosquito larvae. We describe host penetration and emergence patterns of Romanomermis iyengari and Strelkovimermis spiculatus in laboratory exposures against Culex pipiens pipiens larvae. The mermithid species differed in host penetration behavior, with R. iyengari juveniles attaching to the host integument before assuming a rigid penetration posture at the lateral thorax (66.7%) or abdominal segments V to VIII (33.3%). Strelkovimermis spiculatus attached first to a host hair in a coiled posture that provided a stable base for penetration, usually through the lateral thorax (83.3%). Superparasitism was reduced by discriminating against previously infected hosts, but R. iyengari’s ability to avoid superparasitism declined at a higher inoculum rate. Host emergence was signaled by robust nematode movements that induced aberrant host swimming. Postparasites of R. iyengari usually emerged from the lateral prothorax (93.2%), whereas S. spiculatus emergence was peri-anal. In superparasitized hosts, emergence was initiated by males in R. iyengari and females in S. spiculatus; emergence was otherwise nearly synchronous. Protandry was observed in R. iyengari. The ability of S. spiculatus to sustain an optimal sex ratio suggested superior self-regulation. Mermithid penetration and emergence behaviors and sites may be supplementary clues for identification. Species differences could be useful in developing production and release strategies.
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