Where did the nematodes get their scientific name from?

Anton Krausse was born on the 29th of December 1878 in Heldrungen, Thuringia, Germany. He studied Natural Sciences in Berlin and Jena and did his PhD thesis in Jena in 1905 on the antenna of ants. From 1906 until 1914 Anton Krausse lived a reclusive life on the island of Sardinia, Italy. During this time, he made a living by collecting and selling various insects and other animals to museums around the world. He provided valuable contributions to the wildlife of the island also describing several new species. With the beginning of the first world war, he was forced to leave all his belonging behind and return to Germany. A position as assistant researcher was created for him at the forestry college in Eberswalde, Germany (Wolff, 1930).

From October 1st until 5th, 1917 and again from May 27th until June 10th, 1918 Krausse made excursions to a forest in the Egge Mountains close to Neuenheerse, near Paderborn, Westfalia where he studied a massive outbreak of the spruce webworm Cephalcia abietis L. (Hymenoptera: Pamphiliidae) on Picea abies with up to 600 nymphs per m². He sampled and identified several wasps parasitizing the pest (Krausse 1917). This insect is a common natural host for Steinernema kraussei (Mráček 1982) and S. feltiae (Fischer 1989). Fischer reported 32% of the soil population infested with S. feltiae. Under forest and laboratory conditions a positive correlation between soil pH and infested insects was found, with pH levels below 4.0 limiting the nematode's host finding (Fischer and Führer 1990). Krausse found one nymph infested with nematodes and sent it to Gotthold Steiner.

Gotthold Steiner, born on April 8, 1886, in Signau, Switzerland, was a renowned nematologist who made significant contributions to the field. He received his higher education from the Universities of Berne and Zürich, and in 1910, he earned his doctorate degree. Steiner joined the German South Polar expedition with the sailing vessel Gauss from 1901-1903 and summarized his research in two publications (Steiner 1931 a,b). He served on the teaching staff in Zürich until 1921. In 1922 he joined N.A. Cobb at the Division of Nematology, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville. After Cobb's death in 1932, Steiner succeeded him as principal nematologist and leader of the division. When he retired in 1956, he moved to Puerto Rico, where he continued his career at the Agricultural Experiment Station at Rio Piedras. Dr. Steiner authored 191 scientific papers, which dealt largely with free-living nematodes, including marine, freshwater, and soil forms, and with the nematode parasites of plants and invertebrate animals. He had a special expertise in anatomy, morphology, phytonematology, marine nematodes, nutrition, mermithids, and selected invertebrate taxa.

Steiner received material from Krausse that contained a parasitized larva of Cephalcia abietis. Upon examination, Steiner discovered a new species of nematode, which he named Aplectana kraussei (Rhaditida: Oxyuridae) in honor of Krausse (Steiner 1923). The publication is written in German, a translation is provided below. Travassos realized that the placement into the genus Aplectana Railliet & Henry 1916 was a misjudgement and erected the genus Steineria Travassos 1927 (Travassos 1927a). This genus had already been given to a group of marine nematodes (Steineria Micoletzky, 1922) why Travossos quickly renamed the genus as Steinernema Travassos 1927 (Travassos 1927b).

The discovery of Steinernema kraussei was an important milestone in the study of entomopathogenic nematology. Today, Steinernema kraussei is known to be an antagonist of several species of sawflies, and it is one of many nematode species used in biological control programs to manage insect pests at lower temperature. The work of Krausse and Steiner also highlights the importance of collaboration between scientists in different fields and regions, as discoveries in one area can have significant impacts on research in another.


A congress to mark the 100th anniversary of the first description of the entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema kraussei by Gotthold Steiner in 1923 will be held in Logrona, Spain in 2024.

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Fischer, P. 1989: The entomoparasitic nematode species Steinernema feltiae (Nematoda: Steinernematidae) as a mortality factor of the spruce webworm Cephalcia abietis (Hymenoptera: Pamphiliidae). Entomologia Generalis 21, 107-115.

Fischer, P.  and Führer, E. 1990: Effect of soil acidity on the entomophilic nematode Steinernema kraussei Steiner. Biology and Fertility of Soils 21, 107-115.

Krausse, A. 1917: Forstentomologische Exkursionen ins Eggegebirge zum Studium der Massen­ver­meh­rung der Cephaleia abietis L. Archiv für Naturgeschichte  83A (6): 46 - 49.

Mráček Z. 1982: Horizontal distribution in soil, and seasonal dynamics of the nematode Steinernema kraussei, a parasite of Cephalcia abietis. Journal of Applied Entomology 94, 110-112.

Steiner, G. 1923: Aplectana kraussei n.sp., eine in der Blattwespe Lyda sp. parasitierende Nematoden­form, nebst Bemerkungen über das Seitenorgan der parasitischen Nematoden. Zentralblatt für Bakteriologie, Parasitenkunde, Infektionskrankheiten und Hygiene, Zweite Abteilung 59, 14-18.

Steiner. G. 1931a: Die Nematoden der Deutschen Südpolar-Expedition 1901-1903. I. Teil. Deutsche Südpolar-Expedition 20, 167-216.

Steiner, G. 1931b: Die Nematoden der Deutschen Südpolar-Expedition 1901-1903. II. Teil. Deutsche  Südpolar-Expedition 20, 305-433

Travassos L. 1927a: Sobre o genero Oxysomatium. Boletim Biologico, Sao Paulo 5, 20-21.

Travassos L. 1927b: Uma nova Capillaria parasite de peixes de agua doce: Capillaria sentinosa n. sp.  Boletim Biologico, Sao Paulo 10, 215-217.