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Unidentified roundworm from wet soil.
The mouth is at the top left corner.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Subkingdom: Eumetazoa
(unranked): Bilateria
Phylum: Nematoda
Diesing, 1861

and see text


Nematoidea Rudolphi, 1808
Nematodes Burmeister, 1837
Nemates Cobb, 1919
Nemata Cobb, 1919

The "roundworms" or "nematodes" (phylum Nematoda) are the most diverse phylum of pseudocoelomates, and one of the most diverse of all animals. Nematode species are very difficult to distinguish; over 28,000 have been described[1], of which over 16,000 are parasitic. It has been estimated that the total number of described and undescribed roundworms might be more than 500,000. Unlike cnidarians or flatworms, roundworms have a digestive system that is like a tube with openings at both ends.



Nematodes have successfully adapted to nearly every ecological niche from marine to fresh water, from the polar regions to the tropics, as well as the highest to the lowest of elevations. They are ubiquitous in freshwater, marine, and terrestrial environments, where they often outnumber other animals in both individual and species counts, and are found in locations as diverse as Antarctica and oceanic trenches. They represent, for example, 90% of all life on the seafloor of the Earth.[2] Their many parasitic forms include pathogens in most plants and animals (including humans.) Some nematodes can undergo cryptobiosis.

Taxonomy and systematics

Eophasma jurasicum, an extinct nematode

The group was originally defined by Karl Rudolphi in 1808[3] under the name Nematoidea, from Ancient Greek νῆμα (nêma, nêmatos, 'thread') and -eiδἠς (-eidēs, 'like'). The vernacular word "nematode" is a corruption of this taxon, reclassified as family Nematodes by Burmeister in 1837[3] and order Nematoda by K. M. Diesing in 1861[3].

At the origin, the "Nematoidea" included both roundworms and horsehair worms. Along with Acanthocephala, Trematoda and Cestoidea, it formed the group Entozoa.[4] The first differentiation of roundworms from horsehair worms, though erroneous, is due to von Siebold (1843) with orders Nematoidea and Gordiacei (Gordiacea). They were classed along with Acanthocephala in the new phylum Nemathelminthes (today obsolete) by Gegenbaur (1859). Then the taxon Nematoidea has been promoted to the rank of phylum by Ray Lankester (1877) including the family Gordiidae (horsehair worms). In 1919, Nathan Cobb proposed that roundworms should be recognized alone as a phylum. He argued that they should be called nema(s) in English rather than "nematodes"[5] and defined the taxon Nemates (Latin plural of nema). For ITIS, the taxon Nematoda is invalid[6]. Since Cobb was the first to exclude all but nematodes from the group, the valid taxon should be Nemates Cobb 1919 or Nemata Cobb 1919.


The mysterious Gastrotricha seem to hold the key to the "Ecdysozoa debate", but they have been little studied.
Whether they are relatives of the nematodes is still unknown.

The relationships of the nematodes and their close relatives among the protostomian Metazoa are unresolved. Traditionally, they were held to be a lineage of their own, but in the 1990s it was proposed that they form a clade together with moulting animals such as arthropods. This group has been named Ecdysozoa. However, the monophyly of the Ecdysozoa was never unequivocally accepted: while most researchers consider at least the placement of arthropods as more distant relatives of annelids — with which they were formerly united — to be warranted, the presumed close relationships of the nematodes and relatives with the arthropods has been a major point of contention.[7]

Even though the amount of data since accumulated in regard to this problem is staggering, the situation seems if anything less clear these days. DNA sequence data, initially strongly supporting the Ecdysozoa hypothesis, has become rather equivocal on ecdysozoan monophyly, and is simply unable to refute either a close or a more distant relationship between the arthropod and nematode lineages. That the roundworms have a large number of peculiar apomorphies and in many cases a parasitic lifestyle confounds morphological analyses. Genetic analyses of roundworms[citation needed] suggest that — as is also indicated by their unique morphological features — the group has been under intense selective pressure during its early radiation, resulting apparently in accelerated rates of both morphological and molecular evolution. Furthermore, no distinctive apomorphies of Ecdysozoa are known; even moulting has recently been confirmed to occur outside the presumed clade.[7]

Conversely, the identity of the closest living relatives of the Nematoda has always been considered to be well resolved. Morphological characters and molecular phylogenies agree with placement of the roundworms as sister taxon to the parasitic horsehair worms (Nematomorpha); together they make up the Nematoida. Together with the Scalidophora (formerly Cephalorhyncha), the Nematoida form the Introverta. It is entirely unclear whether the Introverta are, in turn, the closest living relatives of the enigmatic Gastrotricha; if so, they are considered a clade Cycloneuralia, but there is much disagreement both between and among the available morphological and molecular data. The Cycloneuralia or the Introverta — depending on the validity of the former — are often ranked as a superphylum.[7]

Nematode systematics

Due to the lack of knowledge regarding many nematodes, their systematics is contentious. Traditionally, they are divided into two classes, the Adenophorea and the Secernentea, and initial DNA sequence studies suggested the existence of five clades:[8]

As it seems, the Secernentea are indeed a natural group of closest relatives. But the "Adenophorea" appear to be a paraphyletic assemblage of roundworms simply retaining a good number of ancestral traits. The Enoplia do not seem to be monophyletic either but to contain two distinct lineages. The old group "Chromadoria" seem to be another paraphyletic assemblage, with the Monhysterida representing a very ancient minor group of nematodes. Among the Secernentea, the Diplogasteria may need to be united with the Rhabditia. while the Tylenchia might be paraphyletic with the Rhabditia.[9]

The understanding of roundworm systematics and phylogeny as of 2002 is summarised below:

Phylum Nematoda


Nematodes are slender, worm-like animals, typically less than 2.5 millimetres (0.10 in) long. The smallest nematodes are microscopic, while free-living species can reach as much as 5 centimetres (2.0 in) and some parasitic species are larger still. The body is often ornamented with ridges, rings, warts, bristles or other distinctive structures.[10]

The head of a nematode is relatively distinctive. Whereas the rest of the body is bilaterally symmetrical, the head is radially symmetrical, with sensory bristles and, in many cases, solid head-shields radiating outwards around the mouth. The mouth has either three or six lips, which often bear a series of teeth on their inner edge. An adhesive caudal gland is often found at the tip of the tail.[10]

The epidermis is either a syncytium or a single layer of cells, and is covered by a thick collagenous cuticle. The cuticle is often of complex structure, and may have two or three distinct layers. Underneath the epidermis lies a lay of muscle cells. Projections run from the inner surface of these cells towards the nerve cords; this is a unique arrangement in the animal kingdom, in which nerve cells normally send extend fibres into the muscles rather than vice versa.[10]

The muscle layer surrounds the body cavity, which is filled with a fluid that lacks any form of blood cells. The gut runs down the centre of the cavity.[10]

Digestive system

The oral cavity is lined with cuticle, which is often strengthened with ridges or other structures, and, especially in carnivorous species, may bear a number of teeth. The mouth often includes a sharp stylet which the animal can thrust into its prey. In some species, the stylet is hollow, and can be used to suck liquids from plants or animals.[10]

The oral cavity opens into a muscular sucking pharynx, also lined with cuticle. Digestive glands are found in this region of the gut, producing enzymes that start to break down the food. In stylet-bearing species, these may even be injected into the prey.[10]

There is no stomach, with the pharynx connecting directly to the intestine that forms the main length of the gut. This produces further enzymes, and also absorbs nutrients through its lining. The last portion of the intestine is lined by cuticle, forming a rectum which expels waste through the anus just below and in front of the tip of the tail. The intestine also has valves or sphincters at either end to help control the movement of food through the body.[10]

Excretory system

Nitrogenous waste is excreted in the form of ammonia through the body wall, and is not associated with any specific organs. However, the structures for excreting salt to maintain osmoregulation are typically more complex.[10]

In many marine nematodes, there are one or two unicellular renette glands that excrete salt through a pore on the underside of the animal, close to the pharynx. In most other nematodes, these specialised cells have been replaced by an organ consisting of two parallel ducts connected by a single transverse duct. This transverse duct opens into a common canal that runs to the excretory pore.[10]

Nervous system

Four nerves run the length of the body on the dorsal, ventral, and lateral surfaces. Each nerve lies within a cord of connective tissue lying beneath the cuticle and between the muscle cells. The ventral nerve is the largest, and has a double structure forward of the excretory pore. The dorsal nerve is responsible for motor control, while the lateral nerves are sensory, and the ventral combines both functions.[10]

At the anterior end of the animal, the nerves branch from a dense circular nerve ring surrounding the pharynx, and serving as the brain. Smaller nerves run forward from the ring to supply the sensory organs of the head.[10]

The body of nematodes is covered in numerous sensory bristles and papillae that together provide a sense of touch. Behind the sensory bristles on the head lie two small pits, or amphids. These are well supplied with nerve cells, and are probably chemoreception organs. A few aquatic nematodes possess what appear to be pigmented eye-spots, but is unclear whether or not these are actually sensory in nature.[10]


Most nematode species are dioecious, with separate male and female individuals. Both sexes possess one or two tubular gonads. In males, the sperm are produced at the end of the gonad, and migrate along its length as they mature. The testes each open into a relatively wide sperm duct and then into a glandular and muscular ejaculatory duct associated with the cloaca. In females, the ovaries each open into an oviduct and then a glandular uterus. The uteri both open into a common vagina, usually located in the middle of the ventral surface.[10]

Reproduction is usually sexual. Males are usually smaller than females (often much smaller) and often have a characteristically bent tail for holding the female for copulation. During copulation, one or more chitinized spicules move out of the cloaca and are inserted into genital pore of the female. Amoeboid sperm crawl along the spicule into the female worm. Nematode sperm is thought to be the only eukaryotic cell without the globular protein G-actin.

Eggs may be embryonated or unembryonated when passed by the female, meaning that their fertilized eggs may not yet be developed. A few species are known to be ovoviviparous. The eggs are protected by an outer shell, secreted by the uterus. In free-living roundworms, the eggs hatch into larva, which appear essentially identical to the adults, except for an under-developed reproductive system; in parasitic roundworms, the life cycle is often much more complicated.[10]

Nematodes as a whole possess a wide range of modes of reproduction.[11] Some nematodes, such as Heterorhabditis spp., undergo a process called endotokia matricida: intrauterine birth causing maternal death.[12] Some nematodes are hermaphroditic, and keep their self-fertilized eggs inside the uterus until they hatch. The juvenile nematodes will then ingest the parent nematode. This process is significantly promoted in environments with a low or reducing food supply.[12]

The nematode model species Caenorhabditis elegans and C. briggsae exhibit androdioecy, which is very rare among animals. The single genus Meloidogyne (root-knot nematodes) exhibit a range of reproductive modes including sexual reproduction, facultative sexuality (in which most, but not all, generations reproduce asexually), and both meiotic and mitotic parthenogenesis.

The genus Mesorhabditis exhibits an unusual form of parthenogenesis, in which sperm-producing males copulate with females, but the sperm do not fuse with the ovum. Contact with the sperm is essential for the ovum to begin dividing, but because there is no fusion of the cells, the male contributes no genetic material to the offspring, which are essentially clones of the female.[10]

Free-living species

In free-living species, development usually consists of four molts of the cuticle during growth. Different species feed on materials as varied as algae, fungi, small animals, fecal matter, dead organisms and living tissues. Free-living marine nematodes are important and abundant members of the meiobenthos. They play an important role in the decomposition process, aid in recycling of nutrients in marine environments and are sensitive to changes in the environment caused by pollution. One roundworm of note is Caenorhabditis elegans, which lives in the soil and has found much use as a model organism. C. elegans has had its entire genome sequenced, as well as the developmental fate of every cell determined, and every neuron mapped.

Parasitic species

Nematodes commonly parasitic on humans include ascarids (Ascaris), filarids, hookworms, pinworms (Enterobius) and whipworms (Trichuris trichiura). The species Trichinella spiralis, commonly known as the trichina worm, occurs in rats, pigs, and humans, and is responsible for the disease trichinosis. Baylisascaris usually infests wild animals but can be deadly to humans as well. Dirofilaria immitus are Heartworms known for causing Heartworm disease by inhabiting the hearts, arteries, and lungs of dogs and some cats. Haemonchus contortus is one of the most abundant infectious agents in sheep around the world, causing great economic damage to sheep farms. In contrast, entomopathogenic nematodes parasitize insects and are considered by humans to be beneficial.

One form of nematode is entirely dependent upon fig wasps, which are the sole source of fig fertilization. They prey upon the wasps, riding them from the ripe fig of the wasp's birth to the fig flower of its death, where they kill the wasp, and their offspring await the birth of the next generation of wasps as the fig ripens.

Colorized electron micrograph of soybean cyst nematode (Heterodera sp.) and egg

Plant parasitic nematodes include several groups causing severe crop losses. The most common genera are Aphelenchoides (foliar nematodes), Ditylenchus, Globodera (potato cyst nematodes), Heterodera (soybean cyst nematodes), Longidorus, Meloidogyne (root-knot nematodes), Nacobbus, Pratylenchus (lesion nematodes), Trichodorus and Xiphinema (dagger nematodes). Several phytoparasitic nematode species cause histological damages to roots, including the formation of visible galls (e.g. by root-knot nematodes), which are useful characters for their diagnostic in the field. Some nematode species transmit plant viruses through their feeding activity on roots. One of them is Xiphinema index, vector of GFLV (Grapevine Fanleaf Virus), an important disease of grapes.

Other nematodes attack bark and forest trees. The most important representative of this group is Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, the pine wood nematode, present in Asia and America and recently discovered in Europe.

Nematodes in agriculture

Depending on the species, a nematode may be beneficial or detrimental to plant health.

From an agricultural perspective, there are two categories of nematode: predatory ones, which will kill garden pests like cutworms, and pest nematodes, like the root-knot nematode, which attack plants and those that act as vectors spreading plant viruses between crop plants.

Predatory nematodes can be bred by soaking a specific recipe of leaves and other detritus in water, in a dark, cool place, and can even be purchased as an organic form of pest control.

Rotations of plants with nematode resistant species or varieties is one means of managing parasitic nematode infestations. For example, marigolds, grown over one or more seasons (the effective is cumulative), can be used to control nematodes.[13] Another is treatment with natural antagonists such as the fungus gliocladium roseum. Chitosan is a natural biocontrol that elicits plant defense responses to destroy parasitic cyst nematodes on roots of sobyean, corn, sugar beets, potatoes and tomatoes without harming beneficial nematodes in the soil.[14]. Furthermore soil steaming is an efficient method to kill nematodes before planting crop.

CSIRO has found [1] that there was 13- to 14-fold reduction of nematode population densities in plots having Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) green manure or seed meal in the soil.

Hundreds of Caenorhabditis elegans were featured in a research project on NASA's STS-107 space mission (which ended in the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster).[15]


Disability-adjusted life year for intestinal nematode infections per 100,000 inhabitants in 2002.
     no data      less than 25      25-50      50-75      75-100      100-120      120-140      140-160      160-180      180-200      200-220      220-240      more than 240

A number of intestinal nematodes affect human beings. These include ascariasis, trichuriasis and hookworm disease.

See also


  1. ^ Hugot et al. (2001)
  2. ^ Genova (2007)
  3. ^ a b c B. G. Chitwood, 1957, Phylum name.
  4. ^ M. R. Sidiqqi, 1986, Tylenchida, parasites of plants and insects
  5. ^ Note that words as nematologist, nematosis, nematocide, etc. are based on nema, nematos and not on "nematode".
  6. ^ ITIS report: Nematoda
  7. ^ a b c ToL (2002a)
  8. ^ Blaxter et al. (1998)
  9. ^ ToL (2002b)
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Barnes, Robert D. (1982). Invertebrate Zoology. Philadelphia, PA: Holt-Saunders International. pp. 288–307. ISBN 0-03-056747-5. 
  11. ^ Bell G (1982)
  12. ^ a b Johnigk & Ehlers (1999)
  13. ^ Riotte, Louise (1975). Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening. p. 7. 
  14. ^ "Stoner R., Linden J., Micronutrient elicitor for treating nematodes in field crops, 2006, Patent Pending, Pub. no.: US 2008/0072494 A1". 
  15. ^ BBC News (2003)


  • Atkinson, H.J. (1973): The Respiratory Physiology of the Marine Nematodes Enoplus brevis (Bastian) and E. communis (Bastian): I. The Influence of Oxygen Tension and Body Size. J. Exp. Biol. 59(1): 255–266. PDF fulltext
  • BBC News (2003): Worms survived Columbia disaster. Version of 2003-MAY-01. Retrieved 2008-NOV-04.
  • Bell, G (1982): The Masterpiece of Nature: The Evolution and Genetics of Sexuality. University of California Press.
  • Blaxter, M.L.; De Ley, P.; Garey, J.R.; Liu, L.X.; Scheldeman, P.; Vierstraete, A.; Vanfleteren, J.R.; Mackey, L.Y.; Dorris M.; Frisse, L.M.; Vida, J.T.; Thomas, W.K. (1998): A molecular evolutionary framework for the phylum Nematoda. Nature 392: 71–75. doi:10.1038/32160 (HTML abstract)
  • Genova, Cathleen (2007): Deep-sea species' loss could lead to oceans' collapse, study suggests. Version of 2007-DEC-27. Retrieved 2008-NOV-04.
  • Gubanov, N.M. (1951): "Giant nematoda from the placenta of Cetacea; Placentonema gigantissima nov. gen., nov. sp.". Proc. USSR Acad. Sci. 77(6): 1123–1125 [in Russian].
  • Hugot, J.P.; Baujard, P. & Morand, S. (2001): Biodiversity in helminths and nematodes as a field of study: an overview. Nematology 3: 199-208. doi:10.1163/156854101750413270 (HTML abstract)
  • Johnigk, Stefan-Andreas & Ehlers, Ralf-Udo (1999): Endotokia matricida in hermaphrodites of Heterorhabditis spp. and the effect of the food supply. Nematology 1(7–8): 717–726. doi:10.1163/156854199508748 (HTML abstract)
  • Merck Veterinary Manual (MVM) (2006): Giant Kidney Worm Infection in Mink and Dogs. Retrieved 2007-FEB-10.
  • Tree of Life Web Project (ToL) (2002a): Bilateria. Version of 2002-JAN-01. Retrieved 2008-NOV-02.
  • Tree of Life Web Project (ToL) (2002b): Nematoda. Version of 2002-JAN-01. Retrieved 2008-NOV-02.
  • White, J.G.; Southgate, Eileen; Thomson, J.n. & Brenner, S. (1976)): The Structure of the Ventral Nerve Cord of Caenorhabditis elegans. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B 275(938): 327–348. PDF fulltext

External links

on the UF / IFAS Featured Creatures Web site

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

NEMATODA, in zoology, a group of worms. The name Nematoda (Gr. viipa, thread, and eraos, form) was first introduced by Rudolphi, but the group had been previously recognized as distinct by Zeder under the name Ascarides. They are now by many systematists united with the Acanthocephala and the Nematomorpha to form the group Nemathelminthes.

The Nematoda possess an elongated and thread-like form (see fig. I), varying in length from a few lines up to several feet. The body is covered externally by a chitinous cuticle which is a product of the subjacent epidermic layer in which no cell limits can be detected though nuclei are scattered through it. The cuticle is frequently prolonged into spines and papillae, which are especially developed at the anterior end of the body. The mouth opens at one extremity of the body and the anus at or near the other. Beneath the epidermis is a longitudinal layer of muscle-fibres which are separated into four distinct groups by the dorsal, ventral and lateral areas; these are occupied by a continuation of the epidermic layer; in the lateral areas run two thin-walled tubes with clear contents, which unite in the anterior part of the body and open by a pore situated on the ventral surface usually about a quarter or a third of the body length from the anterior end. These vessels are the nitrogenous excretory organs. The body-cavity is largely occupied by processes from the large muscle cells of the skin. These processes stretch across the body cavity to be inserted in the dorsal and ventral middle lines.

The body-cavity also contains the socalled phagocytic organs. These consist of enormous cells with nuclei so large as to be in some cases just visible to the naked eye. These cells are disposed in pairs, though the members of each pair are not always at the same level. The number of cells is not large (some 2 to 8), and as a rule they lie along the lateral lines. In some species (Ascaris decipiens) the giant cell is replaced by an irregular mass of protoplasm containing a number of small nuclei. Such a plasmodium bears, on its periphery, groups of rounded projections of protoplasm termed end-organs. Similarly the giant cells are produced at their periphery into a number of branching processes which bear similar end-organs on their surface and in some cases terminate in them. These end-organs are the active agents in taking up foreign granules, or bacteria, which may have found their way into the fluid of the body-cavity. From the shape and position of the phagocytic organs it is obvious that they form admirable strainers through which the fluid of the body-cavity filters (figs. 2, 3).

The alimentary tract consists of a straight tube running from the mouth to the anus without any convolutions; it is separable into three divisions: (I) a muscular oesophagus, which is often provided with cuticular teeth; (2) a cellular intestine; and (3) a short terminal rectum surrounded by muscular fibres. Neither here nor elsewhere are cilia found at any period of development.

A nervous system has been shown to exist in many species, and consists of a perioesophageal ring giving off usually six nerves which run forwards and backwards along the lateral and median lines; these are connected by numerous fine, circular threads in the sub-cuticle. Some of the free-living forms possess eye specks. The sexes are distinct (with the exception of a few forms that are hermaphrodite), and the male is always smaller than the female. The generative organs consist of one or two tubes, in the upper After Galeb, Arch. de Zool. Exp., 1878.

FIG. I. - Oxyuris. b, Mouth.

oe, Oesophagus.

bd, Enlargement of the oesophagus, armed with chitinous teeth..

i, Intestine.

s, Opening of segmental tubes (placed by mistake on the dorsal instead of the ventral surface).

te, Testes.

cd, Vas deferens.

sp, Cloaca.

pa, Papillae.

portion of which the ova or spermatozoa are developed, the lower portion serving as an oviduct or vas deferens; the female generative organs open at the middle of the body, the male close to the posterior extremity into the terminal portion of the alimentary canal; from this cloaca a diverticulum is given off in which are developed one to three chitinous spicules that subserve the function of copulation. The spermatozoa differ from those of other animals in having the form of cells which sometimes perform amoeboid movements. Most remarkable sexual conditions are found to occur in the free-living genera Rhabditis and FIG. 3. - One of the phagocytic organs of Sc. armatum, highly magnified. (From Nassonov.) I, Nucleus of giant-cell.

2, One of the processes and end organs of the same.

Diplogaster. While some of the species are bisexual, others are protandrous, self-fertilizing hermaphrodites. In cultures of the latter there occur very rare supplemental males which appear in no sense degenerate but as fit for reproduction as the males of the bisexual species. Though possessing a complete copulatory apparatus and producing large quantities of spermatozoa, they have lost their sexual instinct and play no part in the economy of the species. These "psychically decadent" individuals appear to represent the entire male sex of a bisexual species, and become unnecessary owing to the grafting of hermaphroditism on the female sex.

Mode of Life and Metamorphoses

While the majority of the Nematodes are parasites, there are many that are never at any period of their life parasitic. These free-living forms are found everywhere - in salt and fresh water, in damp earth and moss, and among decaying substances; they are always minute in size, and like many other lower forms of life, are capable of retaining their vitality for a long period even when dried, which accounts for their wide distribution; this faculty is also possessed by certain of the parasitic Nematodes, especially by those which lead a free existence during a part of their life-cycle. The freeliving differ from the majority of the parasitic forms in undergoing no metamorphosis; they also possess certain structural peculiarities which led Bastian (Trans. Linn. Soc., 1865) to separate them into a distinct family, the Anguillulidae. It is impossible, however, to draw a strict line of demarcation between the free and parasitic species, since - (I) many of the so-called free Nematoda live in the slime of molluscs (Villot), and are therefore really parasitic; (2) while certain species belonging to the freeliving genus Anguillula are normally parasitic (e.g. A. tritici, which lives encysted in ears of wheat), other species occasionally adopt the parasitic mode of existence, and become encysted in slugs, snails, &c.; (3) it has been experimentally proved that many normally parasitic genera are capable of leading a free existence;' (4) transitional forms exist which are free at one period of their life and parasitic at another. The parasitic Nematodes include by far the greatest number of the known genera; they are found in nearly all the orders of the animal kingdom, but more especially among the Vertebrata, and of these the Mammalia are infested by a greater variety than any of the other groups. Some two dozen distinct species have been described as occurring in man. The Nematode parasites of the Invertebrata are usually immature forms which attain their full development in the body of some vertebrate; but there are a number of species which in the sexually adult condition are peculiar to the Invertebrata.2 The Nematoda contain about as many parasitic species as all the other groups of internal parasites taken together; they are found in almost all the organs of the body, and by their presence, especially when encysted in the tissues and during their migration from one part of the body to another, give rise to various pathological conditions. Although some attain their full development in the body of a single host - in this respect differing from all other Entozoa - the majority do not become sexually mature until after their transference from an "intermediate" to a "definitive" host. This migration is usually accompanied by a more or less complete metamorphosis, which is, however, not so conspicuous as in most other parasites, e.g. the Trematoda. In some cases (many species of Ascaris) the metamorphosis is reduced to a simple process of growth.

The parasitic and free-living Nematodes are connected by transitional forms which are free at one stage of their existence and parasitic at another; they may be divided into two classes those that are parasitic in the larval state but free when adult, and those that are free in the larval state but parasitic when adult.

(I) To the first class belong the so-called "hairworm," Mermis, not to be confused with the Gordian worms. 3 The adult forms of M. nigrescens live in damp earth and may be seen after storms or early in the morning crawling up the stalks of plants, a fact which causes people to talk about showers of worms. The eggs are laid on 1 Ercolani successfully cultivated Oxyuris curvula, Strongylus armatus and other species in damp earth; the free generation was found to differ from the parasitic by its small size, and by the females being ovoviviparous instead of oviparous. To this phenomenon he gave the name of dimorphobiosis.

2 The 'genera Ascaris, Filaria, Trichosoma are found throughout the Vertebrata; Cucullanus (in the adult condition) only in fishes and Amphibia; Ankylostoma, Trichocephalus, Trichina and Pseudalius live only in the Mammalia., the last-mentioned genus being confined to the order Cetacea; Strongylus and Physaloptera are peculiar to mammals, birds and reptiles, while Dispharagus, Syngamus and Hystrichis are confined to birds. Mermis (in the larval state) is confined to the Invertebrata and Sphaerularia to bees. Oxyuris, though chiefly parasitic in the Mammalia, occurs also in reptiles, Amphibia and one or two insects. Dacnitis and Ichthyonema are only found in fishes.

3 See Nematomorpha.

FIG. 2. Sclerostomum armatum, y, X about 31, opened to show the phagocytic organs. (From Nassonov.) I, Mouth.

2, Anterior end of alimentary canal.

3, Posterior end of alimentary canal.

4, Ovary.

5, 6 and 7, Anterior middle and posterior pairs of phagocytic organs.

the ground and the young larvae make their way into grasshoppers, in whose bodies they pass most of their larval life. (2) To the second class belong Ankylostoma, Strongylus and many species of Ascaris; the embryo on leaving the egg lives free in water or damp earth, and resembles very closely the free-living genus Rhabditis. After a longer or shorter period it enters the alimentary canal of its proper host with drinking-water, or it bores through the skin and reaches the bloodvessels, and is so conveyed through the body, in which it becomes sexually mature. Rhabditis nigrovenosa has a developmental history which is entirely anomalous, passing through two sexual generations which regularly alternate. The worm inhabits the lung of the frog and toad, and is hermaphrodite (Schneider) or parthenogenetic (Leuckart); the embryos hatched from the eggs find their way through the lungs into the alimentary canal and thence to the exterior; in a few days they develop into a sexual larva, called a Rhabditiform larva, in which the sexes are distinct; the eggs remain within the uterus, and the young when hatched break through its walls and live free in the perivisceral cavity of the mother, devouring the organs of the body until only the outer cuticle is left; this eventually breaks and sets free the young, which are without teeth, and have therefore lost the typical Rhabditis form. They live for some time in water or mud, occasionally entering the bodies of water snails, but undergo no change until they reach the lung of a frog, when the cycle begins anew. Although several species belonging to the second class occasionally enter the bodies of water snails and other animals before reaching their definitive host, they undergo no alteration of form in this intermediate host; the case is different, however, in Filaria medinensis and other forms, in which a free larval is followed by a parasitic existence in two distinct hosts, all the changes being accompanied by a metamorphosis. Filaria medinensis - the Guinea worm - is parasitic in the subcutaneous connective tissue of man (occasionally also in the horse). It is chiefly found in the tropical parts of Asia and Africa, but has also been met with in South Carolina and several of the West Indian islands. The adult worm in the female sometimes reaches a length of 6 ft. The males have only recently been discovered. The female is viviparous, and the young, which, unlike the parent, are provided with a long tail, live free in water; it was formerly believed from the frequency with which the legs and feet were attacked by this parasite that the embryo entered the skin directly from the water, but it has been shown by Fedschenko, and confirmed by Manson, Leiper and others, that the larva bores its way into the body of a Cyclops and there undergoes further development. It is probable that the parasite is then transferred to the alimentary canal of man by means of drinking-water, and thence makes its way to the subcutaneous connective tissue.

The Nematoda which are parasitic during their whole life may similarly be divided into two classes - those which undergo their development in a single host, and those which undergo their development in the bodies of two distinct hosts.

(I) In the former class the eggs are extruded with the faeces, and the young become fully formed within the egg, and when accidentally swallowed by their host are liberated by the solvent action of the gastric juice and complete their development. This simple type of life-history has been experimentally proved by Leuckart to be characteristic of Trichocephalus affinis, Oxyuris ambigua and other species. (2) The life-history of 011ulanus tricuspis is an example of the second class. 011ulanus tricuspis is found in the adult state in the alimentary canal of the cat; the young worms are hatched in the alimentary canal, and often wander into the body of their host and become encysted in the lungs, liver and other organs; during the encystment the worm degenerates and loses all trace of structure.` This wandering appears to be accidental, and to have nothing to do with the further evolution of the animal which takes place in those embryos which are voided with the excrement. Leuckart proved experimentally that these young forms become encysted in the muscles of mice, and the cycle is completed after the mouse is devoured by a cat. The well-known Trichinella spiralis (fig. 4) has a life-history closely resembling that of 011ulanus. The adult worm, which is of extremely minute size, the male being only Fi l sth and the female s of an inch in length inhabits the alimentary canal of man and many other carnivorous mammalia; the young bore their way into the tissues and become encysted in the muscles - within the muscle-bundles according to Leuckart, but in the connective tissue between them according to Chatin and others. The co-existence of the asexual encysted form and the sexually mature adult in the same host, exceptionally found in 011ulanus and other Nematodes, is the rule in Trichinella; many of the embryos, however, are extruded with the faeces, and complete the life cycle by reaching the alimentary canal of rats and swine which frequently devour human ordure Swine become infested with Trichinella in this way and also by eating the dead bodies of rats, and the parasite is conveyed to the body of man along with the flesh of "trichinized" swine.

Importance in Pathology

Among recent advances having medical import in our knowledge of the Nematodes, the chief are those dealing with the parasites of the blood. F. bancrofti is known to live in the lymphatic glands, and its embryos Microfilaria sanguinis hominis nocturna, passing by the thoracic duct, reach the blood-vessels and circulate in the blood. Manson showed in 1881 that the larvae (Microfilariae) were not at all times present in the blood, but that their appearance had a certain periodicity, and the larvae of F. bancrofti. Microfilaria nocturna swarmed in the blood at night-time and disappeared from the peripheral circulation during the day, hiding away in the large vessels at the base of the lungs and of the heart. Ten years later Manson discovered a second species, Filaria perstans, whose larvae live in the blood. They, however, show no periodicity, and are found continuously both by day and by night; and their larval forms are termed Microfilaria perstans. The adult stages are found in the sub-peritoneal connective tissue. A third form, Microfilaria diurna, is found in the larval stage in blood, but only in the daytime. The adult stage of this form is the Filaria loa found in the subcutaneous tissues of the limbs.

The presence of these parasites seems at times to have little effect on the host, and men in whose system it is calculated there are some 40-50 million larvae have shown no signs of disease. In other cases very serious disorders of the lymphatic system are brought about, of which the most marked is perhaps Elephantiasis. Manson and Bancroft suggested that the second host of the parasite is the mosquito or gnat, and for a long time it was thought that they were conveyed to man by the mosquito dying after laying her eggs in water, the larval nematodes escaping from her body and being swallowed by man. It is now held that the parasite enters the blood of man through the piercing mouth-parts at the time of biting. When first sucked up by the insect from an infected man it passes into its stomach, and thence makes its way into the thoracic muscles, and there for some time it grows. Next the larvae make their way into the connective tissue in the pro-thorax, and ultimately bore a channel into the base of the piercing apparatus and come to rest between the hypopharynx and the labium. Usually two are found in this position lying side by side; it would be interesting to know if these are male and female. From their position in the proboscis the larvae can easily enter the blood of man the next time the mosquito bites (Low, Brit. Med. Journ., June 1900; James, ibid., Sept. 1900). Shortly after Low had published his results, Grassi and Noe issued a paper dealing with the larvae of F. immitis, which is spread by means of the mosquito Anopheles (Centrbl. Bakter. I. Abth. xxviii., 'goo). The larvae of this parasite develop in the Malpighian tubules of the insect; at a certain stage they cast their cuticle and make their way into the space - part of the haemocoel - found in the labium. During the act of biting the labium is bent back, and as the piercing stylets enter the skin of the sufferer this bending becomes more and more acute. Grassi and Noe think that if the cavity of the labium be full of the larval nematodes this bending will burst the tissue, and through the rent the larvae will escape and make their way into the body of the host. Besides Anopheles, two species of Culex, C. penicillaris and C. pipiens, are also accused of transmitting the larvae. A paper by Noe (Atti Acc. Lincei, ix., 1900) seems to prove beyond doubt that the larvae of F. immitis are transmitted in the manner indicated. The adult worm is chiefly found in the heart of the dog, and usually in the right side, which may be so packed with_the worms as seriously to interfere with the circulation (fig. 5). The females produce thousands of larvae, which circulate in the blood, and show a certain periodicity in their appearance, being much more numerous in the blood at night than during the day.

Importance as Pests. - Agriculturists now pay increased attention to the nematodes that destroy their crops. A good example of a fairly typical case is afforded by Heterodera schachtii, which attacks beetroot and causes great loss to the Continental sugar manufacturers. The young larvae, nourished by the yolk xIx. 1 2 a FIG. 4. - Trichinella

encysted among muscular fibres. (After Leuckart.) which remains over from the egg and by the remains of the mother which they have taken into their alimentary canal, make their way through the earth, and ultimately coming across the root of a beet, begin to bore into it. This they do by means of a spine which can be protruded from the mouth. Once within the root, they absorb the cell sap of the parenchyma and begin to swell until their body projects from the surface of the root in FIG. 5.

A, View of the heart of a dog infested with Filaria immitis Leidy; the right ventricle and base of the pulmonary artery have been opened: a, aorta; b, pulmonary artery; c, vena cava; d, right ventricle; e, appendix of left auricle; f, appendix of right auricle.

B, Female F. immitis, Xi, removed from the heart to show its length.

the form of a tubercle (fig. 6). The reproductive organs do not begin to appear until the larva has twice cast its skin. After this a marked sexual dimorphism sets in. The female, hitherto indistinguishable from the male, continues to swell until she attains the outlines of a lemon. Doing this she bursts the epidermis of the rootlet, and her body projects into the surrounding earth. The male has a different life-history (fig. 7). After the second larval moult, he passes through a passive stage comparable to the pupa-stadium of an b insect, and during this stage, which occurs inside the root, the reproductive organs are perfected. The male next casts his cuticle, and by means of his spine bores FIG. 6. through the tissues of the root and escapes into the earth. Here he seeks a female, pairs, and soon afterwards dies. The eggs of the female give rise to embryos within the body of the mother; her other organs undergo a retrogressive change and serve as food for the young, until the body-wall only of the mother remains as a brown capsule. From this the young escape and make their way through the earth to new roots. The whole life-history extends over a period of some 4 -5 weeks (fig. 7), so that some 6-7 generations are born during the warmer months. If we assume that each female produces 300 embryos, and that half of these are females, the number of descendants would be, after six generations, some 22,781 milliards (A. Strubell, Bibl. Zool., 1888-1889). Other species which have been recorded in the United Kingdom are Tylenchus devastatrix (Kuhn), on oats, rye and clover roots; T. tritici, causing the FIG. 7.

A, Male Heterodera schachtii, greatly magnified.

a, Head lappets.

b, Mouth cavity.

c, Spine.

d, Muscle of spine.

e, Gland.

f, Oesophagus.

g, Bulb.

h, Nerve-ring.

i, Excretory pore j, Oesophagus.

k, Testis.

1, Intestine.

m Muscles moving spicule. n, Spicule.

ear-cockle of wheat; Cephalobus rigidus (Schn.), on oats; Heterodera radicicola (Greef), on the roots of tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, turnips, peach-trees, vines and lettuce, and many other plants.

See N. Nassonov, Arch. Mikr. Anat. (1900); Arch. parasit. (1898); Rabot, Lab. Warsaw (1898); Zool. Anz. (1898); L. Jdgerskiold, Centrbl. Bakter. (1898); J. Spengel, Zool. Anz. (1897); H. Ehlers, Arch. Naturg. (1899); O. Hamann, Die Nemathelminthen (1895).

(F. E. B.; A. E. S.)

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Nematomorpha >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




From Ancient Greek νῆμα (nēma), thread) + -oda, irregular form of -oidea.

Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:



  1. (taxonomy) A taxonomic phylum within the superphylum Protostomia — the groundworms.
Wikispecies has information on:


See also


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Protostomia
Cladus: Ecdysozoa
Phylum: Nematoda
Classes: Chromadorea - Enoplea - Incertae sedis


Nematoda Rudolphi, 1808


  • De Ley, P.; Blaxter, M.L. 2004: A new system for Nematoda: combining morphological characters with molecular trees, and translating clades into ranks and taxa. Pp. 633-653 in: Cook, R.; Hunt, D.J. (eds) Proceedings of the Fourth International Congress of Nematology, 8-13 June 2002, Tenerife, Spain. Nematology monographs and perspectives, (2). Leiden: E.J. Brill.
  • Hodda, M. 2007: Phylum Nematoda. Pp. 265-293 In: Zhang, Z.-Q. & Shear, W.A. (eds) Linnaeus tercentenary: progress in invertebrate taxonomy. Zootaxa, 1668: 1–766. Abstract & excerpt
  • Meldal, B.H.M.; Debenham, N.J.; De Ley, P.; De Ley, I.T.; Vanfleteren, J.R.; Vierstraete, A.R.; Bert, W.; Borgonie, G.; Moens, T.; Tyler, P.A.; Austen, M.C.; Blaxter, M.L.; Rogers, A.D.; Lambshead, P.J.D. 2007: An improved molecular phylogeny of the Nematoda with special emphasis on marine taxa. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution, 42: 622–636. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2006.08.025

Vernacular names

Bahasa Melayu: Cacing Gelang
Български: Живи влакна
Català: Nematode
Dansk: Rundorm
Deutsch: Fadenwürmer, Nematoden
Ελληνικά: Νηματόδεις
English: Nematodes
Español: Nematodo
Français: Nématodes, Vers ronds
Հայերեն: Կլոր որդեր
Hrvatski: Oblići
Italiano: Nematoda
Latina: Nematoda
Magyar: Fonálférgek
Македонски: Цевчести (кружни) црви
Nederlands: Rondwormen
日本語: 線形動物
‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Rundorm
Polski: Nicienie
Português: Nematelmintos/Nematelmintes/Nematódeos/Nemátodes/Nemátodos/Nematoides/Nematódios
Română: Nematode
Русский: Нематоды, Круглые черви
Suomi: Sukkulamadot
Українська: Круглі черви
中文: 线形动物
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Nematoda on Wikimedia Commons.

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