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MEPS 600:71-83 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12658

Active and species-specific dispersal behaviour in a marine nematode cryptic species complex

N. De Meester1,2,*, T. Van Daele1, J. Van Malderen1, L. Monteiro1, C. Van Colen1, S. Derycke1,2,3, T. Moens1

1Marine Biology Unit, Department of Biology, Ghent University, Gent 9000, Belgium
2Center for Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution, Ghent University, Gent 9000, Belgium
3Aquatic Environment and Quality, Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Oostende 8400, Belgium
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Dispersal is a 3-step process, consisting of a departure, transience and settlement step. In marine nematodes, dispersal is expected to be passive because nematodes lack an active planktonic phase. The transoceanic distribution of several species suggests effective large-scale dispersal. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether nematodes can actively influence their dispersal and whether species-specific differences exist. Such differences could contribute to the commonly observed co-existence of ecologically similar species. Three separate experiments were conducted on 4 species of the cryptic species complex of Litoditis marina (Pm I, Pm II, Pm III and Pm IV) to test the effect of species identity and behaviour in the dispersal steps. A flume experiment demonstrated that nematode emergence increased with increasing flow speed and that they could also actively emerge from decomposing algae (departure step). Movement analysis of nematodes in seawater highlighted behaviour which contributes to the transience step. The settlement experiment demonstrated that L. marina can choose on which substratum to settle in still water. Species-specific differences were found in the departure and transience steps. In the departure step, Pm IV exhibited more active behaviour than Pm I. In the transience step, Pm II and Pm IV showed the highest body bend frequency. These species-specific differences correspond with geographical distribution patterns, which are smaller in the species with weaker dispersal behaviour, and lend support to the idea that dispersal can facilitate coexistence of closely related species through a trade-off between competition and dispersal.


KEY WORDS: Active dispersal · Cryptic species · Nematodes


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Cite this article as: De Meester N, Van Daele T, Van Malderen J, Monteiro L, Van Colen C, Derycke S, Moens T (2018) Active and species-specific dispersal behaviour in a marine nematode cryptic species complex. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 600:71-83. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12658

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