Caenorhabditis elegans

Caenorhabditis elegans is a microscopic (~1 mm) nematode (roundworm) that normally lives in soil. It has become one of the "model" organisms in biology because: Some other features:
Composite photograph of C. elegans just after hatching. At this stage it contains 556 cells and is approximately 0.3 mm long. After reaching maturity, it will contain 959 somatic cells and a variable number of germ cells in its gonad. (Courtesy of J. E. Sulston.)

Like all animals, C. elegans starts life as a fertilized egg (zygote) which then undergoes the mitotic divisions needed to produce the adult.

Because

it has been possible to trace the lineage of every single somatic cell in the animal.

The diagrams below show the pathway by which each of the 556 cells in the larva of C. elegans has developed from the zygote. The relative length of the vertical lines indicates the length of the interval before the next mitosis. Some pathways end in the programmed death of the cell (apoptosis) even before the larva is complete. (Adapted, with permission, from J. Sulston, et al., in Monograph 17. Copyright © Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY.)


Several remarkable features have been found from these studies.
External Link
View a movie of C. elegans crawling under the microscope.
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17 April 2014