A small-scale laboratory study was conducted to assess the capability of nematode species collected at an intertidal mudflat to migrate laterally into defaunated sediment by using an experimental design that excluded hydrodynamic influences. The colonisation of native mud, non-native sand and two types of non-native mud-sand mixture was monitored over a period of 2 months. Results revealed that the composition of source and colonist communities differed significantly between treatments and over time. Within the first 2 weeks of the experiment, dominance patterns in the control sediments were most similar to the sand treatment, indicating that the majority of species were able to migrate easily into non-native sandy sediment. Over the course of the experiment, colonist communities in the muddy sediments became more similar to the control microcosms, whereas the structure of the sand assemblage became increasingly dissimilar to that of the source community. The temporal patterns observed might be related to factors associated with sediment granulometry, such as the availability of appropriate food sources. The outcome of this study demonstrated that the colonisation of defaunated sediment via lateral interstitial migration is a directed, species-specific process that can lead to the establishment of colonist communities that are significantly different from source communities.