Ventral cord and vulva development are analyzed in a large sample of nematode species of the suborder Cephalobina. We find a specific range of evolutionary variations at distinct developmental steps. (1) Unlike Caenorhabditis elegans and relatives, the vulva is formed from the four precursor cells P(5-8).p or, exceptionally, from P(6, 7).p only. (2) The vulval competence group is restricted to these four cells or is larger. (3) The fates of more anterior and posterior Pn.p cells vary between closely related species (mostly cell death versus epidermal fate). (4) The mechanism of vulval cell fate patterning varies within a single genus, even between strains of the same species. (5) We describe the first example of a vulval cell lineage that is asymmetric between the anterior and the posterior sides of the vulva. For a selection of the investigated taxa, phylogenetic trees were constructed in order to map vulval characters and infer evolutionary polarities. We can conclude that in this group, death of the Pn.p cells probably constitutes a derived character state compared to a syncytial fate. Rhabditophanes sp. and Strongyloides ratti are placed as sister taxa, probably sharing an exclusive common ancestor in which the number of precursor cells forming the vulva was reduced from four to two.