How the complex, multicellular structure of an organism is generated from the information contained in the uncleaved egg is a central question in developmental studies.

Nematodes are particularly suitable for studying this question. A unique combination of favourable properties, including transparent eggshell, normal embryogenesis under the microscope outside the mother, small number of cells and rapid, reproducible development made nematodes classic models for developmental biologists (for reviews see Chitwood & Chitwood, 1974; von Ehrenstein & Schierenberg, 1980).

In addition to the attractive features mentioned above, the free-living soil nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (Fig. 1) is also well suited for analysis of the genetic control of development (Brenner, 1974) unlike the classically studied parasitic nematode Parascaris equorum (Ascaris megalocephala).

Recently cellular (e.g. Sulston, Schierenberg, White & Thomson, 1983) and genetic (e.g. Sternberg & Horvitz, 1984) aspects of development have been studied extensively in C. elegans.

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