Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita is a parasitic nematode of terrestrial gastropods that has been formulated into a biological control agent for farmers and gardeners to kill slugs and snails. In order to locate slugs it is attracted to mucus, faeces and volatile cues; however, there is no information about whether these nematodes are attracted to snail cues. It is also unknown how wild isolates of P. Hermaphrodita or different Phasmarhabditis species behave when exposed to gastropod cues. Therefore, we investigated whether P. Hermaphrodita (commercial and wild isolated strains), P. Neopapillosa and P. Californica were attracted to mucus from several common snail species (Cepaea nemoralis, Cepaea hortensis, Arianta arbustorum and Cornu aspersum). We also examined whether snails (C. Aspersum) collected from different locations around the UK differed in their attractiveness to wild isolates of P. Hermaphrodita. Furthermore, we also investigated what properties of snail mucus the nematodes were attracted to, including hyaluronic acid and metal salts (FeSO4, ZnSO4, CuSO4 and MgSO4). We found that the commercial strain of P. Hermaphrodita responded poorly to snail mucus compared to wild isolated strains, and C. Aspersum collected from different parts of the UK differed in their attractiveness to the nematodes. We found that Phasmarhabditis nematodes were weakly attracted to all metals tested but were strongly attracted to hyaluronic acid. In a final experiment we also showed that pharmacological manipulation of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) increased chemoattraction to snail mucus, suggesting that the protein kinase EGL-4 may be responsible for Phasmarhabditis sp. Chemoattraction.
- hyaluronic acid