Original Research

Distribution and diversity of entomopathogenic nematodes (Steinernematidae and Heterorhabditidae) in a South African nature reserve

Isiah Nthenga, Rinus Knoetze, Antoinette P. Malan
Koedoe | Vol 63, No 1 | a1661 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v63i1.1661 | © 2021 Isiah Nthenga, Rinus Knoetze, Antoinette Paula Malan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 October 2020 | Published: 22 November 2021

About the author(s)

Isiah Nthenga, Faculty of AgriSciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa; and, Department of Biology, Nematology Research Group, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Gent University, Gent, Belgium
Rinus Knoetze, Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Faculty of AgriSciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa; and, Plant Protection Division, Agricultural Research Council (ARC), Stellenbosch, South Africa
Antoinette P. Malan, Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Faculty of AgriSciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


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Abstract

Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) are microscopic roundworms that are found in soil worldwide. They deliver an important ecosystem service through preventing natural flares in insect reproduction by means of utilising the soil stages of insects as a food source and by acting as natural biocontrol agents. A survey of EPNs was conducted in the JS Marais Nature Reserve, Stellenbosch, in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Soil samples were baited with the larvae of three susceptible hosts, codling moth (Cydia pomonella), wax moth (Galleria mellonella) and mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) to determine the presence of EPN. Of the 76 soil samples collected across the reserve, 39 were found to be positive for the presence of EPN (51.32%). Among the positive samples, 87% contained Steinernema isolates, 8% contained Heterorhabditis and 5% contained the Oscheius sp. Morphological and molecular studies were performed to characterise the isolates to species level. The Steinernema species were identified as Steinernema khoisanae in 34 samples, and as Steinernema nguyeni in five samples. The only species of Heterorhabditis found was H. safricana, which was identified from three samples. An unknown Oscheius sp. was found in two samples. The reserve’s population of S. khoisanae showed interesting inter-individual variation (93%) early in the internal transcribe spacer (ITS) region, leading to short single-usable sequences, which, in most cases, included only the ITS1 or ITS2 region. However, using the D2D3 confirmed their identity as S. khoisanae, with such occurring in all areas and soil types of the reserve.

Conservation implications: The undisturbed alluvial fynbos and renosterveld of the JS Marais Nature Reserve showed high EPN abundance and diversity in stark contrast to the agro-ecosystems present in the Cape floristic region. This finding, on a micro level, should be conserved for future bioprospecting in the fynbos for EPNs with potential as biocontrol agents.


Keywords

distribution; fynbos; JS Marais Nature Reserve; natural habitat; natural veld

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