|Differences in time until dispersal between cryptic species of a marine nematode species complex|In: PLoS One. Public Library of Science: San Francisco. ISSN 1932-6203, more
Bacteria; Dispersal; Salinity effects; Litoditis marina (Bastian, 1865) Sudhaus, 2011 [WoRMS]; Nematoda [WoRMS]; Marine
Co-occurrence of closely related species may be achieved in environments with fluctuating dynamics, where competitively inferior species can avoid competition through dispersal. Here we present an experiment in which we compared active dispersal abilities (time until first dispersal, number and gender of dispersive adults, and nematode densities at time of dispersal) in Litoditis marina, a common bacterivorous nematode species complex comprising four often co-occurring cryptic species, Pm I, II, III, and IV, as a function of salinity and food distribution. The experiment was conducted in microcosms consisting of an inoculation plate, connection tube, and dispersal plate. Results show species-specific dispersal abilities with Pm I dispersing almost one week later than Pm III. The number of dispersive adults at time of first dispersal was species-specific, with one dispersive female in Pm I and Pm III and a higher, gender-balanced, number in Pm II and Pm IV. Food distribution affected dispersal: in absence of food in the inoculation plate, all species dispersed after ca four days. When food was available Pm I dispersed later, and at the same time and densities irrespective of food conditions in the dispersal plate (food vs no food), suggesting density-dependent dispersal. Pm III dispersed faster and at a lower population density. Salinity affected dispersal, with slower dispersal at higher salinity. These results suggest that active dispersal in Litoditis marina is common, density-dependent, and with species, gender- and environment-specific dispersal abilities. These differences can lead to differential responses under suboptimal conditions and may help to explain temporary coexistence at local scales.