The ecology and biodemography of Caenorhabditis elegans

Exp Gerontol. 2006 Oct;41(10):1059-65. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2006.07.005. Epub 2006 Sep 11.


The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a well-known model organism for research on aging and life span, but very little is known about its ecology and natural history. The strain N2 is the standard wild-type C. elegans and arose from the progeny of a single hermaphrodite. Since N2 has passed through laboratory culture, the influence of inadvertent selection and genetic drift on C. elegans strains kept in culture is unclear. Because it seems that other wild-type strains have also been subject to lengthy laboratory culture, the life span and biodemography of wild-caught C. elegans is of interest. We recovered C. elegans from snails (Helix aspersa) in ca. 50% of the California locations where we made collections. In experiments with one of the wild-caught isolates, it differed in important demographic properties, mortality, fertility, fitness, and activity patterns, from the standard N2 strain, when both strains were evaluated in a common laboratory environment. The differences were not only statistically significant; they were also large enough to be biologically important. The differences are consistent with the hypothesis that N2 has adapted to laboratory conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology*
  • California
  • Ecosystem*
  • Fertility / physiology
  • Life Expectancy
  • Longevity / physiology
  • Population Growth