While the majority of the Nematodes are parasites, there are many that are never at any period of their life parasitic. These free-living forms are found everywhere - in salt and fresh water, in damp earth and moss, and among decaying substances; they are always minute in size, and like many other lower forms of life, are capable of retaining their vitality for a long period even when dried, which accounts for their wide distribution; this faculty is also possessed by certain of the parasitic Nematodes, especially by those which lead a free existence during a part of their life-cycle.
The parasitic Nematodes include by far the greatest number of the known genera; they are found in nearly all the orders of the animal kingdom, but more especially among the Vertebrata, and of these the Mammalia are infested by a greater variety than any of the other groups.
The parasitic and free-living Nematodes are connected by transitional forms which are free at one stage of their existence and parasitic at another; they may be divided into two classes those that are parasitic in the larval state but free when adult, and those that are free in the larval state but parasitic when adult.
Among recent advances having medical import in our knowledge of the Nematodes, the chief are those dealing with the parasites of the blood.
- Agriculturists now pay increased attention to the nematodes that destroy their crops.