What are Nematodes?

” The nematodes (UK: /ˈnɛmətdz/US: /ˈnməˌtdz/) or roundworms constitute the phylum Nematoda. They are a diverse animal phylum inhabiting a broad range of environments. Nematode species can be difficult to distinguish, and although over 25,000 have been described, of which more than half are parasitic, the total number of nematode species has been estimated to be about 1 million. Nematodes are classified along with insects and other molting animals in the clade Ecdysozoa, and, unlike flatworms, have tubular digestive systems with openings at both ends.

Nematodes have successfully adapted to nearly every ecosystem from marine (salt water) to fresh water, to soils, and from the polar regions to the tropics, as well as the highest to the lowest of elevations. They are ubiquitous in freshwater, marine, and terrestrial environments, where they often outnumber other animals in both individual and species counts and are found in locations as diverse as mountains, deserts, and oceanic trenches. They are found in every part of the earth’s lithosphere, even at great depths, 0.9–3.6 km (3,000–12,000 ft), below the surface of the Earth in gold mines in South Africa. They represent 90% of all animals on the ocean floor. Their numerical dominance, often exceeding a million individuals per square meter and accounting for about 80% of all individual animals on earth, their diversity of life cycles, and their presence at various trophic levels point at an important role in many ecosystems. The many parasitic forms include pathogens in most plants and animals (including humans). Some nematodes can undergo cryptobiosis.

Nathan Cobb, a nematologist, described the ubiquity of nematodes on Earth thus:

In short, if all the matter in the universe except the nematodes were swept away, our world would still be dimly recognizable, and if, as disembodied spirits, we could then investigate it, we should find its mountains, hills, vales, rivers, lakes, and oceans represented by a film of nematodes. The location of towns would be decipherable, since for every massing of human beings there would be a corresponding massing of certain nematodes. Trees would still stand in ghostly rows representing our streets and highways. The location of the various plants and animals would still be decipherable, and, had we sufficient knowledge, in many cases even their species could be determined by an examination of their erstwhile nematode parasites.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nematode

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