Student Assessment (Potential
1. What hypotheses can you develop concerning the biodiversity
of nematodes living inside the gut of millipedes? For example,
there will be no significant difference in nematode abundance
when comparing nematofauna from male and female millipedes. What type of statistical test can you think of that would
test this hypothesis?
2. What is the most dominant nematode species found in the
millipede gut that you dissected? Offer an explanation why
one species may be more dominant than the other.
3. What would you expect the Shannon’s and Simpson’s index
numbers to be if all species were equally abundant? What if
they were skewed (e.g., one species is much more dominant
than the others)? Explain.
4. What types of experiments can you design to show that different treatments can produce different effects on nematode
diversity within the intestine of a millipede? For example,
varying the millipede’s diets may increase or decrease the
This lab exercise was initially demonstrated to students varying in
age from 13 to 17 as part of a workshop at the Great Smoky
Mountain National Park Research Center in 2013. Between 2013
and 2018, several other demonstrations and lab exercises were
conducted with Knox County, Tennessee, schools as well as with
students from Harriman Middle School, Harriman, Tennessee.
Most students were very enthusiastic about the lab and indicated
that it was one of their favorite practical exercises. Most of the students indicated that the least favorite aspect of the exercise was
decapitating the head of the millipede, so it is suggested that the
instructor give the students the option of removing the head or
having the instructor do it for them. The vast majority of students
were fascinated with the diversity of nematodes living commensally inside the millipede intestine. Many students had never
heard of a nematode before this lab exercise, and few were able
to describe the difference between a millipede and centipede.
The use of millipedes to demonstrate commensal relationships is
a cost-effective and easy way to engage students in the classroom
and, at the same time, provide a strong foundation in fulfilling the
Next Generation Science Standards and the National Research
Council’s (2012) K–12 Framework for Science Education: Practices,
Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Close examination and
attention to detail provide an excellent opportunity for students
to identify new species of nematodes and other commensal organisms. If students and teachers believe that they have found a new
species of nematode, the authors would gladly provide guidance
and advice to publish their results. The excitement and thrill of
being the first to discover a new life form is a monumental experience for any scientist. Students willing to take the time to look
for new life, report their findings in a peer-reviewed journal,
and establish professional reputations will ultimately attain significant academic and personal successes.
The authors thank all the students who participated in this inquiry
and investigation, specifically those who attended the Discover Life
in America workshop; students from local Knoxville, Tennessee,
high schools; students from Anderson County High School, Clinton,
Tennessee; and Veronica Gibson from Harriman (Tennessee) Middle
School. We are grateful to Claire Phillips for making the You Tube
videos and the commentaries. We acknowledge the use of millipede
images from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s Nadiplochilo
web page. We are very grateful to the Tennessee State Parks and
Director Roger McCoy for issuing permits to conduct research
within the state parks. We are grateful to Dr. Petra Sierwald of the
Field Museum for providing the millipede key.
Golovatch, S.I., Hoffman, R.L., Adis, J. & de Morais, J. W. (1995). Identification
plate for the millipede orders populating the Neotropical region South
of Central Mexico (Myriapoda, Diplopoda). Studies on Neotropical
Fauna and Environment, 30, 159–164.
Hoffman, R.L., Golovatch, S.I., Adis, J. & de Morais, J.W. (1996). Practical
keys to the orders and families of millipedes of the Neotropical region
(Myriapoda: Diplopoda). Amazoniana, 14, 1–35.
Maggenti, A.R. (1981). General Nematology. New York, NY: Springer.
National Research Council (2012). K–12 Framework for Science Education:
Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: NRC.
NGSS Lead States (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By
States. Washington, DC: NationalAcademiesPress.ht tps://www.
Phillips, G. & Bernard, E.C. (2014). Survey and revision of nematodes inhabiting
North American millipedes. Journal of Nematology, 46, 219–220.
Phillips, G., Bernard, E.C., Pivar, R.J., Moulton, J.K. & Shelley, R.M. (2016).
Coronostoma claireae n. sp. (Nematoda: Rhabditida: Oxyuridomorpha:
Coronostomatidae) from the indigenous milliped Narceus gordanus
(Chamberlain, 1943) (Diplopoda: Spirobolida) in the Ocala National
Forest, Florida. Journal of Nematology, 48, 159–169.
Seinhorst, J.W. (1959). A rapid method for the transfer of nematodes from
fixative to anhydrous glycerin. Nematologica, 4, 67–69.
Shelley, R.M. (2018). The myriapods, the world’s leggiest animals.
Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, University of
Tennessee at Knoxville. https://ag.tennessee.edu/EPP/Pages/
Sierwald, P. (2018). Milli-PEET: keytomillipedeorders.ht tps://www.
GARY PHILLIPS is an Assistant Research Professor of Entomology, Nematology
and Plant Pathology at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Knoxville,
TN 37996; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. DAVID I. YATES is an Advanced
Placement and Honors Teacher at David Crockett High School, Jonesborough,
TN 37659; e-mail: email@example.com. ROWLAND M. SHELLEY (deceased) was
an Adjunct Professor of Entomology, Nematology and Plant Pathology at the
University of Tennessee at Knoxville. PAUL R. ORTSTADT is an Advanced
Placement and Honors Biology Teacher at Anderson County High School,
Clinton, TN 37716; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. ERNEST C. BERNARD is a Professor
of Entomology, Nematology and Plant Pathology at the University of Tennessee
at Knoxville; e-mail: email@example.com.