Marine nematodes, biodiversity and pollution monitoring -
The Darwin Nematode Project: why, how and where?
We need to rapidly increase the number of biologists able to identify small
seabed dwelling animals (known as meiofauna) and then use this information
for monitoring of the local coastal environment and empowering local
management decisions, particularly with respect to pollution.
Meiofauna are multi-cellular animals smaller than 0.5mm living in all seabed
habitats from estuaries to the deep sea, particularly the sand and mud that
predominates in the coastal areas and in the oceans world-wide. These
animals have characteristics that make them extremely useful indicators of
environmental stress. Small, easily handled samples of seabed sediment
usually yield 1000's of individuals of many different species. Globally,
these animals are increasingly being monitored to estimate the health of the
environment, but not many people know how to identify them.
Free-living marine nematodes are usually the most abundant animals in the
meiofauna and are also very diverse. Within the Darwin Nematode Project we
have run training workshops (nematode identification and statistical
analysis of ecological community data) and provided electronic
identification keys to free-living marine nematodes that are freely
available on the Internet or CD-ROM.
We have also created a virtual museum nematode collection to enable
scientists to give names to new, undescribed species which can be used by
their colleagues whilst the species await formal description in the
More information about the software and the Darwin Nematode Project as a
whole can be found on the project's web site on