What are Nematodes?

Currently residing in Michigan, Andrew Whiteman received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Oberlin College. Before returning to Michigan, Andrew Whiteman assisted in researching the genetic sequencing of mutated nematodes as part of his work as a research assistant to an Oberlin biology professor in 2008.

The most common multicellular creature on Earth, nematodes can refer to any of approximately 20,000 species. Though they appear wormlike, nematodes are not genetically related to worms. Nematodes consist of only around 1,000 somatic cells, but they can range between .3 millimeters and over 8 meters in length. Another interesting feature of nematodes is that they lack circulatory and respiratory systems, but they possess a relatively complex reproductive system.

Often found in gardens, nematodes feed on plants. Certain types prefer interior plant tissue while others consume the outer foliage. Nematodes can be dangerous because they may eat the contents of a plant cell, which leads to swelling or dead spots. Moreover, they can introduce viruses, bacteria, and fungi into the vegetation. Despite these concerns, most nematodes are beneficial for one’s garden. Along with killing more hazardous insects and pests, they aid in natural composting by breaking down organic matter.

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