We show that a signal from the germ line represses growth in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Laser-microbeam ablation of cells that give rise to the germ line causes adults to become giant. Ablation of these cells in self-sterile mutant worms also causes gigantism, suggesting that the germ line represses growth because it is the source of a growth-antagonizing signal rather than because of a sink of resources required for reproduction. The C. elegans germ line also emits a signal that represses longevity. This longevity-repressing signal requires the activity of DAF-16, a forkhead/winged-helix transcription factor, but we find that that the growth-repressing signal does not. The growth-repressing signal also does not require the activity of DBL-1, a transforming growth factor beta-related protein that promotes growth in worms. By ablating the germ-line precursors of other species of free-living nematodes, we also found that both the growth-repressing and longevity-repressing signals are evolutionarily variable. Some species have both signals; others have just one or the other. We suggest that variation in germ-line signaling contributes to body size and life-history diversity in the nematodes.