Recently, much attention has been focused on a group of rhabditid nematodes called Phasmarhabditis, a junior synonym of Pellioditis, as a promising source of biocontrol agents for invasive slugs. Pellioditis pelhamensis n. sp. was first isolated from earthworms near Pelham Bay Park in Bronx, New York, USA, in 1990 and has been found to be pathogenic to slugs as well as some earthworms. It has also been used in several comparative developmental studies. Here, we provide a description of this species, as well as a redescription of a similar earthworm-associated nematode, Pellioditis pellio Schneider, 1866, re-isolated from the type locality. Although P. pelhamensis n. sp. and P. pellio are morphologically similar, they are reproductively isolated. Molecular phylogenetic analysis places both species in a clade that includes all species previously described as Phasmarhabditis which are associated with gastropods. Phasmarhabditis Andrássy, 1976 is therefore a junior synonym of Pellioditis Dougherty, 1953. Also, Pellioditis bohemica Nermut', Puza, Mekete & Mrácek, 2017, described to be a facultative parasite of slugs, is found to be a junior synonym of Pellioditis pellio (Schneider, 1866), adding to evidence that P. pellio is associated with both slugs and earthworms. The earthworm-associated species P. pelhamensis n. sp. and P. pellio represent different subclades within Pellioditis, suggesting that Pellioditis species in general have a broader host range than just slugs. Because of this, caution is warranted in using these species as biological control agents until more is understood about their ecology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas