The roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans has risen to the status of a top model organism for biological research in the last fifty years. Among laboratory animals, this tiny nematode is one of the simplest and easiest organisms to handle. And its life outside the laboratory is beginning to be unveiled. Like other model organisms, C. elegans has a boom-and-bust lifestyle. It feasts on ephemeral bacterial blooms in decomposing fruits and stems. After resource depletion, its young larvae enter a migratory diapause stage, called the dauer. Organisms known to be associated with C. elegans include migration vectors (such as snails, slugs and isopods) and pathogens (such as microsporidia, fungi, bacteria and viruses). By deepening our understanding of the natural history of C. elegans, we establish a broader context and improved tools for studying its biology.
Keywords: C. elegans; ecology; evolution; evolutionary biology; genomics; natural history; the natural history of model organisms.