During post-embryonic development the temporal and spatial regulation of cellular and molecular mechanisms continue past embryogenesis to give rise to a fully functional adult. Post-embryonic development in C. elegans involves progression of the animal through four larval stages. Post-embryonic development involves further limited somatic cell division and cell death to bring the final total to 959 somatic nuclei in the hermaphrodite and 1031 in the male. Other remarkable processes during this period include cell migrations, neuronal rewiring, and adoption of final cell fates. Under conditions of stress, e.g., starvation, reproductive development ceases and the animal switch to a physiologically distinct developmental program to produce the dauer larva.
The process by which an embryo forms and develops, marking a time of rapid cell proliferation, specification, and differentiation. Embryogenesis in C. elegans takes about fourteen hours at 22 degrees C, starting with fertilization of the oocyte with self-sperm from the hermaphrodite or sperm from a male. During the first two hours, the zygote forms and early cleavages establish the embryonic axes. Somatic and germ-line founder cell fates are also determined. During the next five hours, most cell proliferation completes, the embryo undergoes gastrulation, and cell differentiation and organogenesis begins. Cell differentiation, organogenesis and morphogenesis are completed during the final stage of embryogenesis. The nervous system becomes active and muscles are stimulated during this last stage, resulting in the embryo twitching within its egg shell and eventually hatching as an L1 larva.