The chemotaxis responses of soil nematodes have been well studied in bacteriophagic nematodes, plant-parasitic nematodes, entomopathogenic nematodes, and to a lesser extent malacopathogenic nematodes. Free-living stages of parasitic nematodes often use chemotaxis to locate hosts. In this study, we compared the chemotaxis profile of 2 slug-associated nematodes with overlapping host ranges. Phasmarhabditis californica is a facultative parasite that has been shown to express strain-dependent variation in chemoattraction profile. We tested 4 slug species to determine the attraction index of a Canadian strain of Ph. californica and a sympatric necromenic nematode, Pristionchus entomophagus. When tested against a control (distilled water), Ph. californica showed a clear (positive) attraction towards the mucus of slugs Ambigolimax valentianus, Arion rufus, and Arion fasciatus, but not Deroceras reticulatum. However, when given a choice between the mucus of D. reticulatum and Ar. fasciatus in a pairwise test, Ph. californica was strongly attracted to the former. Other pairwise comparisons did not reveal a clear preference for either slug species in the following pairs: D. reticulatumAr. rufus, Am. valentianusAr. rufus, D. reticulatumAm. valentianus. The chemotaxis assay for Pr. entomophagus showed an attraction toward D. reticulatum and Ar. fasciatus (tested against controls); the attraction index for Am. valentianus was positive, but this was not statistically significant. In contrast, the attraction index for Ar. rufus was negative, suggesting possible repulsion to the mucus of this slug species. Given that Pr. entomophagus and Ph. californica occupy overlapping habitats, utilize similar hosts, and exhibit similar chemotaxis profiles, there is a potential for direct interaction between these 2 nematodes. Like other members of the genus Pristionchus, Pr. entomophagus may be able to prey upon the co-occurring Ph. californica, such antagonistic interactions could have important implications for the coexistence of these 2 species and Ph. californica in particular as a biocontrol agent against pestiferous slugs.

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