Hawaiian Tetragnatha spiders inhabiting small forest fragments on the Big Island of Hawaii are parasitized by mermithid nematodes. This is the first report of mermithid nematodes infecting spiders in Hawaii, and an initial attempt to characterize this host-parasite interaction. Because immature mermithids were not morphologically identifiable, a molecular identification was performed. A phylogenetic analysis based on 18S small ribosomal subunit nuclear gene sequences suggested that Hawaiian spider mermithids are more closely related to a mainland presumptive Aranimemis species that infects spiders, than to an insect-infecting mermithid collected on Oahu, HI, or to Mermis nigrescens. also a parasite of insects. Measured infection prevalence was low (ranging from 0 to 4%) but differed significantly among forest fragments. Infection prevalence was associated significantly with fragment area, but not with spider density nor spider species richness. Results suggest that mermithid populations are sensitive to habitat fragmentation, but that changes in infection prevalence do not appear to affect spider community structure. ?? 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Mermithid parasitism of Hawaiian Tetragnatha spiders in a fragmented landscape