Navigation Links
Research outlines mysterious evolution of nematodes -- one of Earth’s first animals
Date:4/27/2011

CORVALLIS, Ore. - They can be both a blessing and a curse, and have been around since the dawn of life. Thousands of species are found from mountain tops to smoking volcanic vents on the ocean floor. They play a key role in soil biology and help to support much of the plant and animal life on Earth.

But until now, no one knew when or where they came from. And to a large extent, no one cared. Such has been the fate of the hugely important but little appreciated animal known as the nematode, or roundworm.

That has changed with a new book from Oregon State University, "The Evolutionary History of Nematodes," that establishes for the first time the field of palaeonematology the study of the ancient history, origin and evolution of these tiny creatures from our distant past. More information on the book is available online at http://bit.ly/fimxff.

"A farmer usually just thinks about how to kill them, because some nematodes are parasites of crops," said George Poinar, author of the book and an OSU courtesy professor of zoology. "Geneticists have a little more respect, because one nematode, C. elegans, is very useful in modern genetic research. And helpful nematodes could become important in the future of organic and sustainable agriculture.

"About the only time most people care about nematodes is when they become infected with a species such as hookworms," Poinar said. "That's been going on a long time. The ancient Egyptians had treatments for worms, some of which were pretty horrible. One of them entailed eating goat feces."

At some universities, Poinar said, there are entire departments devoted to the study of nematodes again, mostly on how to kill them. But almost nothing until now had been done to learn about their origins, in part because the tiny, soft bodies of nematodes are rarely found in fossils. Their history was a mystery.

Poinar, however, is one of the world's leading experts in the study of ancient life forms found in amber, a semi-precious stone formed from tree sap. It has the unusual ability of preserving ancient plant and animal life forms in near perfect condition. Through nematodes found in amber, as well as some fossils and even odd sources like Egyptian mummies, Poinar has created a foundation for the study of nematode evolution.

"The oldest known nematodes are from about 400 million years ago, but I believe they probably date back to around 1 billion years," Poinar said. "That would mean they were one of the very oldest of all life forms, coming along before almost all other animals and just after bacteria, protozoa and fungi.

"They literally emerged from the primordial ooze," he said.

Nematodes are usually very small, and the smallest are microscopic. But they are functional animals, with nervous and digestive systems, muscles, good mobility, and they are capable of rapid reproduction and learned behavior.

They are hardy survivors, able to live in freshwater, marine and terrestrial environments, and may comprise as much as 90 percent of all life forms on the ocean floor. There are tens of thousands of species described, but there may be up to 10 million overall. There are 138 species known to infect humans, most of which were passed along as a dubious gift from our primate ancestors.

Based on his research, Poinar believes nematodes evolved in the sea and one of their first roles was as a parasite to marine invertebrates. They make great parasites. One species causes heartworms in dogs, another is the most infectious agent in sheep around the world. As plant parasites they can cause severe crop losses, often feeding on roots. But at the same time they are an important "secondary decomposer" in soil biology. And some nematodes can be used in organic insect control a key role that may allow reduced use of pesticides.

"There's still a huge amount we don't know about nematodes," Poinar said. "But these are one of the most important invertebrate groups on Earth, and the new discoveries of fossil roundworms discussed in the book help to fill in the gaps about how ancient nematodes really are. It's a good start."


'/>"/>

Contact: George Poinar
george.poinar@oregonstate.edu
541-737-5366
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. ISU research leads to understanding of how crops deal with stress -- yields biggest enemy
2. MU researchers pioneer animal diabetes treatment
3. MIT researchers use virus to improve solar-cell efficiency
4. Beetle bling: Researchers discover optical secrets of metallic beetles
5. Wild hogs: Researchers examine impact of feral pigs in eastern N.C.
6. ASPO announces 2011 award winners in pediatric otolaryngology research
7. Presidential keynote address and new research highlights from the American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology meeting
8. What motivates environmental activists, policymakers? asks new research center
9. Researchers create functioning synapse using carbon nanotubes
10. Researchers find fat turns into soap in sewers, contributes to overflows
11. USC research shows critical role of placenta in brain development
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/28/2016)... First quarter 2016:   , Revenues amounted ... quarter of 2015 The gross margin was 49% (27) ... the operating margin was 40% (-13) Earnings per share ... operations was SEK 249.9 M (21.2) , Outlook   ... M. The operating margin for 2016 is estimated to ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... 2016 Research and Markets has ... Market 2016-2020,"  report to their offering.  , ... ,The global gait biometrics market is expected to ... period 2016-2020. Gait analysis generates multiple ... used to compute factors that are not or ...
(Date:3/29/2016)... , March 29, 2016 LegacyXChange, ... LegacyXChange "LEGX" and SelectaDNA/CSI Protect are pleased to announce ... used in a variety of writing instruments, ensuring athletes ... originally created collectibles from athletes on LegacyXChange will be ... of the DNA. Bill Bollander , ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016 Epic ... sensitively detects cancers susceptible to PARP inhibitors by ... tumor cells (CTCs). The new test has already ... therapeutics in multiple cancer types. Over ... DNA damage response pathways, including PARP, ATM, ATR, ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... Researchers at the Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona combed medical journal articles ... findings are the subject of a new article on the Surviving Mesothelioma website. ... blood, lung fluid or tissue of mesothelioma patients that can help point doctors to ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... UAS LifeSciences, one of ... their brand, UP4™ Probiotics, into Target stores nationwide. The company, which has been ... Target to its list of well-respected retailers. This list includes such fine stores ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - FACIT has announced the ... biotechnology company, Propellon Therapeutics Inc. ("Propellon" or ... of a portfolio of first-in-class WDR5 inhibitors for ... as WDR5 represent an exciting class of therapies, ... medicine for cancer patients. Substantial advances have been ...
Breaking Biology Technology: