When I started university back in 2012 I would have never thought I would ever enjoy writing about things like this. As an 18 year old dead set on studying sharks, predation and genetics. It never crossed my mind that tiny parasitic worms would take over my life at uni. But I am so glad that I got involved in the world of parasitology and nematology at LJMU.
I wanted lab experience, I wanted to learn the skills that would help me try and gain an advantage after uni was over. So I asked my personal tutor what I could do about it and he invited me to work assisting him in the lab. It turned out to be the best thing I did at my time at LJMU. It improved my understanding of biology and zoology tenfold. Additionally I found a new passion.. parasites! Particularly phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita ( which I will call FAZ).
Background on Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita (FAZ)
FAZ is a microscopic species of parasitic nematode, it is lethal to slugs and therefore has been developed into a biocontrol agent in agriculture. The images above show the adult parasite, FAZ infecting a slug, and the commercial strain and brand we used in the lab to conduct experiments with.
Research At LJMU
In the following years I learnt a great deal more about these amazing animals, I worked over summers in the lab conducting experiments under the supervision of Dr Rae, who by the way has a blog dedicated to this amazing parasitic worms.(here’s the link! https://phasmarhabditis.wordpress.com/).
All the hard work paid off and earlier this year Dr Rae helped me publish my first scientific publication. (here’s the link! http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09583157.2016.1185513)
The paper looked at avoidance behaviour of both slug and snails when exposed to FAZ. Dr Rae had many questions he wanted answering for instance: is it all slugs that avoid FAZ, and is the avoidance based on chemical cues? will slugs avoid only the nemaslug strain of FAZ or will it avoid natural strains of the parasite? do slugs avoid all nematodes or just FAZ? The experiment was a success and all these questions were answered. No not all slugs avoid FAZ. Some species are resistant to the parasite, for instance Limax flavus. Therefore it would be a waste of energy for L.flavus to actively avoid the parasite. Additionally, slugs tend to be quite picky on which worms they want to run from. They will avoid FAZ but not insect killing nematodes (Entomopathogenic nematodes).
For a much more in-depth explanation of the work pop over to Dr Rae’s blog, there is a link above.
This work has now been published in the journal of Biocontrol, Science and Technology.