Biodiversity in helminths and nematodes as a field of study: an overview
Despite their potential negative effects, parasites may be used as targets for biological conservation and studies on the evolutionary and ecological impact of parasitism. These purposes serve to increase our knowledge on the species diversity of parasites. In the present paper we try to precisely define the composite zoological group currently designated as 'helminths' and to address the question of how many known species there are in the different clades of parasitic worms, as compared with the other major groups described in the Animalia. The relationships between helminthology and nematology are discussed. Finally, the question of how to improve the organisation of research in these different fields of study is briefly considered. The Nematoda seems to be the group which needs the greatest effort in the future. This supposes that specialists in nematode taxonomy are numerous enough to maintain a substantial effort. The necessary taxonomical effort is weakened by the distribution of the fields of study between helminthology and nematology, something which is inadequate from a zoological, as well as from a logical, point of view. The study of nematode zoology would certainly improve if nematology could emerge as an undivided speciality. One of the prior goals in such a unified field of study would be an exhaustive inventory of the nominal living species. A cooperative effort will also be needed to found the basis of a general classification of the phylum Nematoda. Finally, a clarification and a standardisation of the terminology is also needed.