• hermaphrodite;
  • island biogeography;
  • Nematoda;
  • Oryctes

Pristionchus pacificus has been established as a nematode model system in evolutionary developmental biology and evolutionary ecology. Field studies in North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe indicated that nematodes of the genus Pristionchus live in association with scarab beetles. Here, we describe the first account of soil- and beetle-associated nematodes on an island setting by investigating the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. Réunion has high numbers of endemic insects and is one among several attractive islands for biodiversity studies. Being of volcanic origin, Réunion is 2–3 million years old, making it the youngest of the Mascareigne islands. We show that beetle- and soil-derived nematodes on Réunion are nearly exclusively hermaphroditic, suggesting that selfing is favoured over gonochorism (outcrossing) during island colonization. Among members of four nematode genera observed on Réunion, Pristionchus pacificus was the most prevalent species. A total of 76 isolates, in association with five different scarab beetles, has been obtained for this cosmopolitan nematode. A detailed mitochondrial haplotype analysis indicates that the Réunion isolates of P. pacificus cover all four worldwide clades of the species. This extraordinary haplotype diversity suggests multiple independent invasions, most likely in association with different scarab beetles. Together, we establish Réunion as a case study for nematode island biogeography, in which the analysis of nematode population genetics and population dynamics can provide insight into evolutionary and ecological processes. © 2010 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2010, 100, 170–179.