By: Alex R.
The microscopic worms, named Bursaphelenchus xylophilus (or the pinewood nematode) are known to kill whole entire trees, despite the fact that they are incredibly small (only about a millimeter). The pinewood nematodes disperse throughout the trees, consuming cells along pine resin canals. Unfortunately for the trees, this is no case of mutualism. The pine trees lose water and die just a couple of months later. As these parasites spread, they can destroy whole forests, an epidemic seen around the world. Not only are the pines and the nematodes affected by this; it only makes sense for other creatures of the ecosystem to be affected, too. The pinewood nematode gets help (that is, it gets to other pine trees) from its friend, the pine sawyer beetle, with which it does share a mutualistic relationship. Lilin Zhao’s team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences ventures further to understand this relationship. (Read more…)