The DNA from a number of free-living and parasitic nematode species was examined to determine the genomic number and distribution of DNA sequences encoding two evolutionary conserved proteins; the major sperm protein (MSP) and nematode actin. Ascaris and Caenorhabditis MSP cDNA sequences and Ascaris genomic actin sequences were used to probe Southern blots of Eco RI and Hin d III digested nematode DNA. The number of MSP genes varied widely between the 1 MSP gene in Ascaris and the 60 MSP genes in Caenorhabditis. Filarial nematodes appeared to have 1—4 MSP genes while the plant and insect parasitic species showed from 5–12 MSP-hybridizing restriction fragments. Mammalian intestinal parasites showed between 1 and 13 bands hybridizing with the MSP probes. Blots probed to estimate the number of actin genes showed that, with the exception of Ascaris which contains more than 20 germ line sequences that encode actin, all of the nematodes tested had between 3 and 9 bands that hybridized to the Ascaris genomic actin probe. The possible use of highly conserved sequences such as MSP and actin to differentiate between nematode species in diagnostic and taxonomic studies is discussed.