At a recent conference in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, investigators met to discuss the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. This free-living worm may, according to some workers, become the Escherichia coli or at least the bacteriophage T4 of the animal world. Small (about 1mm in length) and semitransparent, C. elegans provides for research the advantages of a short life cycle (3 days) and a simple anatomy-it contains about 810 nongonadal nuclei. It is both easy to cultivate, on E. coli as a food source, and convenient for genetic analysis. Its genes are carried on five autosomes and a sex chromosome (X), and it has a genome size about 20 times that of E. coli. It generally reproduces as a self-fertilizing hermaphrodite (XX), but occasional males (XO), which arise by nondisjunction, permit sexual reproduction as well....