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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the unique anatomical and morphological features of flatworms, rotifers, Nemertea, mollusks, and annelids
  • Describe the development of an extracoelomic cavity
  • Discuss the advantages of true body segmentation
  • Explain the key features of Platyhelminthes and their importance as parasites
  • Describe the features of animals classified in phylum Annelida

Animals belonging to superphylum Lophotrochozoa are protostomes, in which the blastopore, or the point of involution of the ectoderm or outer germ layer, becomes the mouth opening to the alimentary canal. This is called protostomy or “first mouth.” In protostomy, solid groups of cells split from the endoderm or inner germ layer to form a central mesodermal layer of cells. This layer multiplies into a band and then splits internally to form the coelom; this protostomic coelom is hence termed schizocoelom    .

As lophotrochozoans, the organisms in this superphylum possess either a lophophore or trochophore larvae. The lophophores include groups that are united by the presence of the lophophore, a set of ciliated tentacles surrounding the mouth. Lophophorata include the flatworms and several other phyla. These clades are upheld when RNA sequences are compared. Trochophore larvae are characterized by two bands of cilia around the body.

The lophotrochozoans are triploblastic and possess an embryonic mesoderm sandwiched between the ectoderm and endoderm found in the diploblastic cnidarians. These phyla are also bilaterally symmetrical, meaning that a longitudinal section will divide them into right and left sides that are symmetrical. It also means the beginning of cephalization, the evolution of a concentration of nervous tissues and sensory organs in the head of the organism, which is where it first encounters its environment.

Phylum platyhelminthes

The flatworms are acoelomate organisms that include many free-living and parasitic forms. Most of the flatworms are classified in the superphylum Lophotrochozoa, which also includes the mollusks and annelids. The Platyhelminthes consist of two lineages: the Catenulida and the Rhabditophora. The Catenulida, or "chain worms" is a small clade of just over 100 species. These worms typically reproduce asexually by budding. However, the offspring do not fully attach from the parents and, resemble a chain in appearance. All of the remaining flatworms discussed here are part of the Rhabditophora. Many flatworms are parasitic, including important parasites of humans. Flatworms have three embryonic tissue layers that give rise to surfaces that cover tissues (from ectoderm), internal tissues (from mesoderm), and line the digestive system (from endoderm). The epidermal tissue is a single layer cells or a layer of fused cells (syncytium) that covers a layer of circular muscle above a layer of longitudinal muscle. The mesodermal tissues include mesenchymal cells that contain collagen and support secretory cells that secrete mucus and other materials at the surface. The flatworms are acoelomates, so their bodies are solid between the outer surface and the cavity of the digestive system.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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