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Worms of the World: Social vs. Solitary Foraging and the Surface Phenome of C. elegans
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The free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a model organism. Over the past four decades, research using C. elegans has contributed to our knowledge about aging, development, structure and function of the nervous system and many other basic biological processes. The N2 strain, which originates from Bristol, England, is used as the canonical “wild type” strain. But not much is known about the diversity of these nematodes in the wild, how their environment may affect their phenotypes and how they interact with other organisms. We conducted a series of assays on 40 wild isolates from around the world to test for phenotypic variability, including determining whether they are social or solitary foragers, and studied their surface phenotype by a lecting binding assay and susceptibility to a bacterial pathogen. Overall, the 40 strains of worms from around the world have similar surface coats concerning the lack of sugar decorations they have (at least the same type of sugar decorations seen on srf-3 mutants), but they differ in their feeding behaviors and how resistant they are to M. nematophilum.