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Mol Cells. 2010 Oct;30(4):347-53. doi: 10.1007/s10059-010-0125-9. Epub 2010 Sep 2.

Reproductive fitness and dietary choice behavior of the genetic model organism Caenorhabditis elegans under semi-natural conditions.

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  • 1Institute of Zoophysiology, University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany.


Laboratory breeding conditions of the model organism C. elegans do not correspond with the conditions in its natural soil habitat. To assess the consequences of the differences in environmental conditions, the effects of air composition, medium and bacterial food on reproductive fitness and/or dietary-choice behavior of C. elegans were investigated. The reproductive fitness of C. elegans was maximal under oxygen deficiency and not influenced by a high fractional share of carbon dioxide. In media approximating natural soil structure, reproductive fitness was much lower than in standard laboratory media. In seminatural media, the reproductive fitness of C. elegans was low with the standard laboratory food bacterium E. coli (γ-Proteobacteria), but significantly higher with C. arvensicola (Bacteroidetes) and B. tropica (β-Proteobacteria) as food. Dietary-choice experiments in semi-natural media revealed a low preference of C. elegans for E. coli but significantly higher preferences for C. arvensicola and B. tropica (among other bacteria). Dietary-choice experiments under quasi-natural conditions, which were feasible by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) of bacteria, showed a high preference of C. elegans for Cytophaga-Flexibacter-Bacteroides, Firmicutes, and β-Proteobacteria, but a low preference for γ-Proteobacteria. The results show that data on C. elegans under standard laboratory conditions have to be carefully interpreted with respect to their biological significance.

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