Why study nematomorphs?
study these strange parasites?
all measures, Nematomorphs are considered a “minor” animal phylum. This
synthetic group includes phyla such as the Nemertea, Rotifera,
Acanthocephala, and many others. The definition of a minor phylum is
one that is represented by a relatively small number of species. As
such, many are often skipped over in teaching and research. In
addition, major funding for research into the biology of these animals
reasons that our group has chosen to work on this group are numerous.
All of us who study nematomorphs are absolutely fascinated by their
beauty and complexity. We have realized that not only organisms in
specious groups or those affecting humans deserve our attention. To us,
“Minor Phylaologists”, the most interesting question is why so many
phyla with so few species evolved in such a relatively short amount of
time (mostly during the Cambrian), and why most of these groups have
not diversified as much as the insects or the nematodes. In order to
address these ultimate questions, we need to study many of the
proximate mechanisms making these organisms “work”. This includes
information about the life cycles, survival strategies, ecology,
study nematomorphs now?
change makes it imperative that this group of parasites is studied now.
Human caused climate change, resource exploitation, human expansion and
invasive species have all impacted the natural environment on which
these parasites depend. Gordiids not only depend on freshwater
habitats, but also the habitats found within paratenic and definitive
hosts. Thus, gordiids are tightly linked to the aquatic environment and
to the environmental features required by their hosts. The disruption
of any one of these environments could lead to the extinction or
displacement of gordiid species. For example, over the last 20 years,
29 of 51 Madagascan endemic forest beetles have gone extinct as a
result of deforestation (Hanski et al., 2007). Models predict that
several more of these species will be lost over the next decade. It is
unknown how many parasite species have gone extinct with these hosts.
In Costa Rica, forest fragmentation and changes in land use practices
have led to alterations in insect species assemblages causing
significant loss of biological diversity (Perfecto et al., 1997). A
less obvious result of this fragmentation is that insects such as
beetles have shifted niches (Gormley et al., 2007), away from aquatic
environments. Such shifts may result in species important to gordiid
life cycles to torque out of alignment making transmission between
hosts impossible. Organisms such as gordiids with complicated life
cycles capable of being disrupted by ongoing global change are in
pressing need of inventory.
Collecting hairworms in the Manzano
Mountains, New Mexico, USA.