Nematodes include both parasitic and free living species that burrow in the sediment. They are characterised by a shiny iridescent cuticle and an unsegmented body (Fig. 22.4K). In many species, males and females exhibit no sexual dimorphism with streamlined bodies pointed at both ends, in other cases males have complex copulatory organs. Free living species are abundant in reefal sediments as a constituent of the meiofauna, and probably are extremely speciose but they have been poorly studied. Nematodes are important recyclers of nutrients in sediments and are an important food source for many other animals. Our knowledge of parasitic nematodes on the GBR is extremely limited, but they can be found in the guts of many marine vertebrate species.

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