Unsegmented Worm

Unsegmented Worms

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Phylum Platyhelminthes

  • Called flatworms because bodies are flattened dorso-ventrally

  • Acoelomate – solid bodies without a lined body cavity
  • Have 3 body layers — outer ectoderm, middle mesoderm, & inner endoderm
  • Bilaterally symmetrical
  • Show cephalization (concentration of sensory organs at anterior or head end)
  • Body cells exchange oxygen & carbon dioxide directly with environment by diffusion
  • Single opening into gastrovascular cavity; two-way digestive tract
  • Some are parasites & others are free-living
  • Parasitic worms have thick cell layer called tegument covered with a nonliving cuticle covering their bodies as protection inside hosts
  • Includes 3 classes — Turbellaria (planarians), Trematoda (parasitic flukes), & Cestoda (parasitic tapeworms

Class Turbellaria

  • Most are marine but includes freshwater planarian (Dugesia)


  • Spade-shaped at the anterior end & have two, light-sensitive eyespots
  • Can sense light, touch, taste, & small
  • Have 2 clusters of nerve cells or ganglia to form a simple brain
  • Nervous system composed of a nerve net
  • Capable of simple learning
  • Move by tiny hairs or cilia over a mucus layer that they secrete
  • Feed by scavenging or protozoans
  • Have a single opening or mouth located at the end of a muscular tube called the pharynx which can be extended when feeding
  • Flame cells help remove wastes to excretory pores

  • Hermaphrodites that cross-fertilize eggs that are then deposited into a capsule until hatching in 2-3 weeks
  • Reproduce asexually by fragmentation

Class Trematoda

  • Includes parasitic flukes
  • About 1 cm long & oval shaped

  • Require a host to live
  • Have both oral & ventral suckers to cling to host & suck blood, cells, & body fluids
  • Oral sucker around mouth at anterior end sucks blood
  • May be endoparasites (live inside a host) or ectoparasites (live on the outside of host
  • Covered in tough, unciliated tegument
  • Nervous & excretory systems like turbellarians
  • Hermaphrodites
  • Have a long, coiled uterus that stores & releases 10,000+ eggs
  • Eggs released through genital pore & develop into larva
  • Show complex life cycles
  • Life cycle of sheep liver fluke:
    * Adult liver flukes live in sheep liver & gall bladder where they mate & form eggs
    * Eggs enter intestines, pass out with feces, & hatch in water
    * Larva enter snails, asexually multiply, then leave snail & form cysts
    * Cysts (dormant larva with hard, protective covering) clings to grass
    * Sheep ingest cysts when they eat grass
    * Cysts hatch in digestive tract & bore through intestines into bloodstream
    * Mature & reproduce in the liver

  • Schistosomiasis (disease caused by parasitic blood flukes) infects people in Asia, Africa, & South America causing intestinal bleeding & tissue decay that can result in death

Class Cestoda

  • Includes tapeworms
  • Adapted for parasitic life
  • Tough outer tegument prevents being digested by host
  • Anterior end called scolex contains hooks & suckers for attachment to intestine of host

  • Long, ribbon-like bodies up to 12 m in length
  • Nervous system extends length of body but lacks sense organs
  • Lacks mouth & digestive tract but absorbs digested nutrients from host
  • Grows by making body segments called proglottids
  • Each proglottid produces eggs & sperm that cross-fertilize with other segments & also self-fertilize (hermaphrodites)
  • Oldest, mature proglottids containing eggs at posterior end break off & pass out with feces
  • Life cycle of beef tapeworm:
    * Cattle eat grass with proglottids containing fertilized eggs
    * Eggs hatch into larva & bore through cow’s intestine into bloodstream
    * Larva burrow into cow’s muscle & form cysts
    * Humans eat beef (muscle) & cysts travels to intestines
    * Cyst breaks open & adult beef tapeworm forms


Phylum Nematoda

  • Called roundworms
  • Includes Ascaris, hookworms, Trichinella, & pinworms
  • Pseudocoelomates have fluid-filled body cavity partially lined with mesoderm
  • Pseudocoelom contains the body organs & provides hydrostatic skeletal support for muscles
  • Have long slender bodies that taper at both ends

  • Covered with flexible cuticle
  • Digestive tract with anterior mouth & posterior anus; called one-way digestive tract
  • Separate sexes in most species
  • Most are free living
  • Some are parasites on plants & animals
  • Ascaris is a parasitic roundworm living in the intestines of pigs, horses, & humans
  • Ascaris life cycle:
    * Enter body in contaminated food or water & hatch in intestines
    * Larva bore into bloodstream & carried to lungs & throat
    * Larva coughed up, swallowed, & return to intestines to mature & mate
    * Block the intestine causing death

  • Hookworm eggs hatch in moist soil & larva bore through bare feet of new host 
  • Trichinella are human parasites caused by eating undercooked pork containing the cysts
    * Cause disease called trichinosis
    * Cysts cause muscle pain & stiffness


Phylum Rotifera

  • Known as rotifers or wheel animals
  • Transparent, free-swimming microscopic animal
  • Freshwater & marine
  • Have a ring of cilia around mouth that rotates like a wheel to bring in food
  • Feed on unicellular algae, bacteria, & protozoa
  • Have a muscular organ called the mastax behind the pharynx to chop food
  • Nervous system composed of anterior ganglia & 2 long nerve cords
  • Show cephalization (head end)
  • Have 2 anterior, light-sensitive eyespots