In this study, we assessed the effect of the saprobic fungus, Fusarium oxysporum (Ascomycota: Hypocreales) on the fitness of the entomopathogenic nematode Heterorhabditis sonorensis (Caborca strain). Sand column assays were considered to evaluate the effect of fungal mycelia on infective juvenile (IJ) movement and host access. Additionally, we investigated the effect of fungal spores on the nematodes' ability to search for a host, its virulence, penetration efficiency and reproduction. Three application timings were considered to assess interactions between the fungus and the nematodes. In vitro assays were also considered to determine the effect of fungal extracts on the nematode's symbiotic bacteria. Our observations indicate that presence and age of fungal mycelia significantly affect IJ movement in the sand columns and their ability to establish in the host. These results were also reflected in a reduced insect mortality. In particular, treatments with the 15. days old mycelia showed a significant reduction in insect mortality and penetration efficiency. Presence of fungal spores also impacted nematode virulence and reproduction. In particular, two of the application timings tested (simultaneous [EPN and fungal spores applied at the same time] and alternate I [EPN applied first, fungus applied 24. h later]) resulted in antagonistic interactions. Moreover, IJ progeny was reduced to half in the simultaneous application. In vitro assays revealed that fungal extracts at the highest concentration tested (10. mg/ml) inhibited the growth of the symbiotic bacteria. Overall, these results suggest that saprobic fungi may play an important role in regulating. EPN populations in the soil, and that they may be one of the factors that impact nematode survival in the soil and their access to insect hosts.
- Entomopathogenic nematode
- H. sonorensis
- Saprobic fungus
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics