Entomopathogenic nematodes of the genus Steinernema are lethal parasites of insects that are used as biological control agents of several lepidopteran, dipteran and coleopteran pests. Phylogenetic relationships among 25 Steinernema species were estimated using nucleotide sequences from three genes and 22 morphological characters. Parsimony analysis of 28S (LSU) sequences yielded a well-resolved phylogenetic hypothesis with reliable bootstrap support for 13 clades. Parsimony analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequences (12S rDNA and cox 1 genes) yielded phylogenetic trees with a lower consistency index than for LSU sequences, and with fewer reliably supported clades. Combined phylogenetic analysis of the 3-gene dataset by parsimony and Bayesian methods yielded well-resolved and highly similar trees. Bayesian posterior probabilities were high for most clades; bootstrap (parsimony) support was reliable for approximately half of the internal nodes. Parsimony analysis of the morphological dataset yielded a poorly resolved tree, whereas total evidence analysis (molecular plus morphological data) yielded a phylogenetic hypothesis consistent with, but less resolved than trees inferred from combined molecular data. Parsimony mapping of morphological characters on the 3-gene trees showed that most structural features of steinernematids are highly homoplastic. The distribution of nematode foraging strategies on these trees predicts that S. hermaphroditum, S. diaprepesi and S. longicaudum (US isolate) have cruise forager behaviours.
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