If you’re expecting an article about the adorable Dory who helped find Nemo, then you’ve found the wrong link.
Our Dory is a microscopic soil nematode from the order Dorylaimida. She’s a particularly common type of soil nematode but there’s nothing ordinary about our Dory.
Q: Before we get into all the serious questions Dory, I always like to ask guests how they prefer to start their mornings?
A: What a fun question! Well there’s no sunlight below the surface of the soil and I don’t have any eyes so it makes it pretty easy to take naps whenever I get a little tired, but the first thing I like to do when I wake-up is stretch out my tail, then I like to squirm and wriggle back and forth a few times, and by then I’m usually ready to start my day.
Q: Dory what exactly is a nematode?
A: Nematodes are roundworms in the Phylum Nematoda and we live in all types of habitats including soil. Nematodes like me, from the order Dorylaimida, and those from the orders Aphelenchida, Rhabditida, and Tylenchida are particularly common in soil.
Q: With so many types of nematodes is there a way to tell them all apart?
A: It can get confusing but the easiest way to tell soil nematodes apart is by the structure of our jaws because they are shaped differently based upon the foods we most commonly eat. Some nematodes eat bacteria and some feed on fungus. Some nematodes are herbivores and others are omnivores.
Q: Nematodes have received a lot of bad press because some can cause plant disease – how do you feel about the bad reputation?
A: Nematodes that cause problems such as root knots or leaf galls, injure root tips or cause lesions, and kill plant tissues really have made us a misunderstood soil microbe. Unfortunately the nematodes that cause problems get a lot more attention than the beneficial nematodes that do so much to help manage soil health.
Q: What function do beneficial nematodes perform to help support soil health?
A: We do ‘soil’ much to help! Nematodes are responsible for performing nutrient cycling in soil because we release nutrients in plant available forms. For example, when a nematode feeds on some bacteria, ammonium (NH4+) is released because the bacteria contain a lot more nitrogen than the nematode needs. Nematodes also help to control soil microbe population levels, disperse soil microbes, supress soil diseases, and nematodes get eaten by predators too, all of which helps to maintain a healthy soil ecosystem.
Q: I really can’t thank you enough for taking the time to share all this useful information about nematodes. What’s next for you Dory?
A: I’ve been working on a playwright called “Finding Nema” about a baby nematode that gets separated from her parents who need to make the harrowing journey across meters of terrain to find her.
Next time we profile “Amy” a testate amoeba who will let us know what life is like living in the rhizosphere.