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Freezing and Desiccation Tolerance in Entomopathogenic Nematodes: Diversity and Correlation of Traits

Journal of Nematology
Publication Date
  • Ecology
  • Geography


The ability of entomopathogenic nematodes to tolerate environmental stress such as desiccating or freezing conditions, can contribute significantly to biocontrol efficacy. Thus, in selecting which nematode to use in a particular biocontrol program, it is important to be able to predict which strain or species to use in target areas where environmental stress is expected. Our objectives were to (i) compare inter- and intraspecific variation in freeze and desiccation tolerance among a broad array of entomopathogenic nematodes, and (ii) determine if freeze and desiccation tolerance are correlated. In laboratory studies we compared nematodes at two levels of relative humidity (RH) (97% and 85%) and exposure periods (24 and 48 h), and nematodes were exposed to freezing temperatures (-2°C) for 6 or 24 h. To assess interspecific variation, we compared ten species including seven that are of current or recent commercial interest: Heterorhabditis bacteriophora (VS), H. floridensis, H. georgiana, (Kesha), H. indica (HOM1), H. megidis (UK211), Steinernema carpocapsae (All), S. feltiae (SN), S. glaseri (VS), S. rarum (17C&E), and S. riobrave (355). To assess intraspecific variation we compared five strains of H. bacteriophora (Baine, Fl1-1, Hb, Oswego, and VS) and four strains of S. carpocapsae (All, Cxrd, DD136, and Sal), and S. riobrave (355, 38b, 7-12, and TP). S. carpocapsae exhibited the highest level of desiccation tolerance among species followed by S. feltiae and S. rarum; the heterorhabditid species exhibited the least desiccation tolerance and S. riobrave and S. glaseri were intermediate. No intraspecific variation was observed in desiccation tolerance; S. carpocapsae strains showed higher tolerance than all H. bacteriophora or S. riobrave strains yet there was no difference detected within species. In interspecies comparisons, poor freeze tolerance was observed in H. indica, and S. glaseri, S. rarum, and S. riobrave whereas H. georgiana and S. feltiae exhibited the highest freeze tolerance, particularly in the 24-h exposure period. Unlike desiccation tolerance, substantial intraspecies variation in freeze tolerance was observed among H. bacteriophora and S. riobrave strains, yet within species variation was not detected among S. carpocapsae strains. Correlation analysis did not detect a relationship between freezing and desiccation tolerance.

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