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Keywords:

  • Chemoattraction;
  • ecology;
  • La Réunion Island;
  • natural variation;
  • nematode;
  • Pristionchus pacificus.

Abstract

All organisms must interact with their environment, responding in behavioral, chemical, and other ways to various stimuli throughout their life cycles. Characterizing traits that directly represent an organism's ability to sense and react to their environment provides useful insight into the evolution of life-history strategies. One such trait for the nematode Pristionchus pacificus, chemosensation, is involved in navigation to beetle hosts. Essential for the survival of the nematode, chemosensory behavior may be subject to variation as nematodes discriminate among chemical cues to complete their life cycle. We examine this hypothesis using natural isolates of P. pacificus from La Réunion Island. We select strains from a variety of La Réunion beetle hosts and geographic locations and examine their chemoattraction response toward organic compounds, beetle washes, and live beetles. We find that nematodes show significant differences in their response to various chemicals and are able to chemotax to live beetles in a novel assay. Further, strains can discriminate among different cues, showing more similar responses toward beetle washes than to organic compounds in cluster analyses. However, we find that variance in chemoattraction response is not significantly associated with temperature, location, or beetle host. Rather, strains show a more concerted response toward compounds they most likely directly encounter in the wild. We suggest that divergence in odor-guided behavior in P. pacificus may therefore have an important ecological component.