Beyond being robust experimental model organisms, Caenorhabditis elegans and its relatives are also real animals that live in nature. Studies of wild nematodes in their natural environments are valuable for understanding many aspects of biology, including the selective regimes in which distinctive genomic and phenotypic characters evolve, the genetic basis for complex trait variation, and the natural genetic diversity fundamental to all animal populations. This manuscript describes a simple and efficient method for extracting nematodes from their natural substrates, including rotting fruits, flowers, fungi, leaf litter, and soil. The Baermann funnel method, a classical nematology technique, selectively isolates active nematodes from their substrates. Because it recovers nearly all active worms from the sample, the Baermann funnel technique allows for the recovery of rare and slow-growing genotypes that co-occur with abundant and fast-growing genotypes, which might be missed in extraction methods that involve multiple generations of reproduction. The technique is also well suited to addressing metagenetic, population-genetic, and ecological questions. It captures the entire population in a sample simultaneously, allowing an unbiased view of the natural distribution of ages, sexes, and genotypes. The protocol allows for deployment at scale in the field, rapidly converting substrates into worm plates, and the authors have validated it through fieldwork on multiple continents.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)