Through direct sequencing methods, the mitochondrial gene for cytochrome oxidase subunit two (CO II) and the single-copy nuclear gene for calmodulin were compared among strains of Caenorhabidits elegans and two other Caenorhabditis species (C. remanei and C. briggsae). In addition the CO II sequence was determined from a distantly related nematode, Steinernema intermedii. Among the 11 strains of C. elegans tested, there are four types of CO II gene, arising from two major lineages. Levels of intraspecific difference in the CO II gene are low (less than 2.0%) compared to the extraordinary divergence between congeneric species, which is about 50% when corrected for multiple hits. Concordant with the increase in divergence between taxa is a change in the pattern of substitution from a strong transition bias (24 transitions compared to two transversions) within species to a substitution pattern that appears to reflect the base composition of the mitochondrial genome when more divergent nematodes are compared. The base composition of the Caenorhabditis CO II gene is strongly biased toward A + T at all three positions of codons and appears to constrain the amino acid composition of the protein. Both the CO II and calmodulin genes show extreme conservation of amino acid sequences. When the accumulation of changes at silent sites in the two genes is compared among strains, it becomes evident that the mitochondrial gene is changing faster than the nuclear gene.