, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 289–307 | Cite as

Longevity and ageing in parasitic and free-living nematodes

  • David Gems


In the developing field of biological gerontology, rapid advances have recently been made in the genetics of ageing in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. The aim of this work is to develop an understanding of the general mechanisms determining the ageing process. Within the last decade the prospect of actually achieving this somewhat hubristic aim has begun to look startlingly real. In this context, knowledge of every aspect of the biology of ageing in nematodes is of added interest. Here the patterns of ageing observed among parasitic and free-living nematodes are surveyed and compared. Like insects, nematode species exhibit enormous differences in the rate of ageing, with maximum life spans varying over more than a 1000-fold range, from three days in free-living Rhabdias bufonis adults, to at least 15 years in the filarial parasite Loa loa. The possible evolutionary and mechanistic causes of such differences in ageing are discussed.

comparative nematode ageing evolution Caenorhabditis elegans Onchocerca volvulus Strongyloides ratti 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Gems
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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