Analysis of the specificity of three root-feeders towards grasses in coastal dunes

Research paper by Eduardo de la Peña, Martijn Vandegehuchte, Dries Bonte, Maurice Moens

Indexed on: 28 May '08Published on: 28 May '08Published in: Plant and soil


Among the root-feeding nematodes that accumulate in the rhizosphere of grasses in European dunes, the genus Pratylenchus is of special relevance given its diversity and distribution. Although different species of Pratylenchus have been reported in dune grasses, the specificity towards dune plants, a fundamental aspect of the biology of the species, has hitherto not been studied. Two inoculation experiments using different combinations of grasses and nematodes were performed. The multiplication and the effect on plant growth of P. dunensis and P. brzeskii, two species which only occur in dune areas was compared with that of P. penetrans, a broad host-range species. The three Pratylenchus spp. could multiply under all hosts; however, there was a clear host-dependent response. The species-specific response observed might account for the shift of Pratylenchus spp. detected in the field. Although, a negative effect on the growth of A. arenaria was demonstrated for the three nematode species, different densities were needed to observe the same effects in plant biomass which point at nematode-specific tolerance. While the typical dune species needed very high densities to produce damage, P. penetrans needed very few specimens. The results obtained indicate that species with similar feeding adaptations show very different multiplication abilities on co-occurring hosts, an aspect that is usually overlooked for belowground herbivores in natural systems. The obtained results might suggest a coevolutionary relationship between specific nematode species and Ammophila arenaria.