Mermithid Nematodes: Physiological Relationships with their Insect Hosts


  • Roger Gordon


This paper assesses our state of knowledge of physiological processes involved in the relationships between insects and their mermithid nematode parasites. Three major components of the host-parasite relationship(s) are reviewed: effects of mermithids on host physiology, effects of host physiology on mermithids, and the physiology of the nematodes themselves. Mermithids induce an array of changes in host physiology, and the effects on host metabolism and endocrinology are discussed at some length. Few studies have been done to ascertain the effects of the host on the parasites from a physiological standpoint. Whereas host immunity mechanisms against mermithids have been described at the ultrastructural level, the physiological basis of such responses is not known. Mermithids are atypical nematodes, both structurally and physiologically. In the absence of a functional gut, nutrients are absorbed across the outer cuticle and stored in a trophosome. The transcuticular mode of feeding, storage within the trophosome, and metabolism of storage products are discussed. The usefulness of physiological information toward expediting in vitro culture of these nematodes is discussed, and problems that need to be addressed are defined. Key words: cuticle, fat body, Filipjevimermis leipsandra, Gastromermis boophthorae, hemolytnph, immunity, Mermis nigrescens, mermithid nematode, Neomesomermis flumenalis, Romanomermis culicivorax, trophosome.