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Role of the Sheath in Desiccation Tolerance of Two Entomopathogenic Nematodes

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For more content, see Nematology.

The free-living infective juveniles of entomopathogenic nematodes are ensheathed in the retained cuticle from the previous moult. Desiccation tolerance is essential for persistence in a soil environment and the sheath may have a protective function. We evaluated the role of the sheath in the desiccation tolerance of two species of entomopathogenic nematodes, Steinernema carpocapsae and Heterorhabditis bacteriophora. The sheath of H. bacteriophora was critical for survival at 97% relative humidity with 80.9% of sheathed infective juveniles surviving after 21 d versus 20.0% and 6.3% for exsheathed and chemically desheathed nematodes respectively. The sheath did not influence S. carpocapsae survival after 21 d at 97% relative humidity. In sand assays at 2, 4, 8 and 16% moisture levels, desheathed H. bacteriophora caused significantly less Galleria mellonella mortality than sheathed H. bacteriophora. No differences were found between the three S. carpocapsae treatments or sheathed H. bacteriophora. Our results indicate that the sheath plays an important role in desiccation tolerance of H. bacteriophora but has no effect on tolerance of S. carpocapsae.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Entomology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, U.S.A.


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