Nematode nervous systems

Curr Biol. 2016 Oct 24;26(20):R955-R959. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.07.044.


Nematodes comprise one of the largest phyla in the animal kingdom, both in terms of individual numbers and species diversity. Although only 20,000-30,000 species have been described, it is estimated that the true number ranges between 100,000 and 10 million. Marine, freshwater, and terrestrial species are all widespread, and some nematodes have even been isolated from such inhospitable environments as deserts, hot springs, and polar seas. Some nematode species are parasitic, with either plant or animal hosts; other species are free-living microbivores, scavengers, or predators of insects or other nematodes. Nematodes vary widely in size, from small microbivores that grow no larger than 100 μm to large animal parasites growing to several meters in length. They adopt a variety of reproductive strategies: most species are gonochoristic (i.e., have male and female sexes), but self-fertile hermaphroditic species are not uncommon, and parthenogenetic species are also known. Nematodes belong to the superphylum Ecdysozoa, a clade of moulting animals that also includes arthropods, tardigrades and priapulids. Although nematode fossils are rare, the origin of the nematode phylum is believed to be very ancient, with the divergence from arthropods estimated based on molecular data to have been between 900 and 1,300 Ma.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Nematoda / anatomy & histology*
  • Nematoda / physiology*
  • Nervous System / anatomy & histology
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena
  • Phylogeny