Projects per year
Caenorhabditis elegans is an important, widely used developmental and genetic model. A pheromone has long been known to cause juvenile developmental arrest in C. elegans, a phenomenon that is common among nematodes more widely. Many novel effects of this pheromone are now being discovered—most recently, that exogenous supply of this pheromone controls adult worms reproduction. Here, we suggest that to properly understand and interpret these phenomena, C. elegans natural ecology must be considered, about which rather little is known. With this perspective, we suggest that C. elegans pheromone signalling evolves very locally, such that there are different dialects of pheromone signalling among ecological communities and among kin groups, and we also argue that pheromone signals may also evolve to be manipulative and dishonest. New approaches must be undertaken to study these phenomena in C. elegans. While model systems have been tremendously important tools in modern biological research, taking account of their natural history is necessary, and key, to properly understand and interpret laboratory-based discoveries.