At first sight, these nematodes all look the same. Nevertheless, they each belong to a different species. Such cryptic species- species that morphologically look the same but show genetic divergence- are more different than we first might think. Previous research already showed that they have different environmental preferences and competitive abilities. In our paper, “Active dispersal is differentially affected by inter- and intraspecific competition in closely related nematode species”, we show that differences in active dispersal behavior occur: in addition to differences in time until first dispersal, the triggers for dispersal also differ between the species. One of the species is most triggered by interspecific competition, two others by competition with conspecifics, and the fourth one is a time-dependent disperser, with fast dispersal regardless of inter- or intraspecific interactions.
These differences in dispersal behavior may be important to explain the coexistence of these species. According to Darwin’s classical competition theory, we can expect that very similar species will not co-occur because competition will be too high. Differences in dispersal behavior may lead to postponed or avoided competition, rendering temporal coexistence possible in a patchy habitat.
The authors through Nele de Meester