Tough cuticles evolved in some unsegmented worms

Tough external cuticles evolved in some members of another ecdysozoan lineage whose descendants colonized freshwater and terrestrial as well as marine environments. Two extant phyla represent this lineage.

horsehair worms. About 320 species of horsehair worms (phylum Nematomorpha) have been described. As their name implies, horsehair worms are extremely thin, and they range from a few millimeters up to a meter in length (Figure 33.4). Most adult horsehair worms live in fresh water among leaf litter and algal mats near the edges of streams and ponds. The larvae of horsehair worms are internal par-

Paragordius sp.


Paragordius sp.

Horsehair Worm
33.4 Horsehair Worms These worms get their name from their hair-or threadlike shape.They can grow to be up to a meter long.

asites of terrestrial and aquatic insects and freshwater crayfish. The horsehair worm's gut is greatly reduced, has no mouth opening, and is probably nonfunctional. These worms may feed only as larvae, absorbing nutrients from their hosts across the body wall, but many continue to grow after they have left their hosts, suggesting that adult worms may also absorb nutrients from their environment.

ROUNDWORMS. Roundworms (phylum Nematoda) have a thick, multilayered cuticle secreted by the underlying epidermis that gives their body its shape (Figure 33.5«). As a roundworm grows, it sheds its cuticle four times.

Roundworms exchange oxygen and nutrients with their environment through both the cuticle and the intestine, which is only one cell layer thick. Materials are moved through the gut by rhythmic contraction of a highly muscular organ, the pharynx, at the worm's anterior end. Round-worms move by contracting their longitudinal muscles.

Roundworms are one of the most abundant and universally distributed of all animal groups. About 25,000 species have been described, but the actual number of living species may be more than a million. Countless roundworms live as scavengers in the upper layers of the soil, on the bottoms of lakes and streams, in marine sediments (Figure 33.5c), and as parasites in the bodies of most kinds of plants and animals. The topsoil of rich farmland contains up to 3 billion nema-todes per acre.

Many roundworms are predators, preying on protists and other small animals (including other roundworms). Many roundworms live parasitically within their hosts. The largest known roundworm, which reaches a length of 9 meters, is a parasite in the placentas of female sperm whales. The round-worms that are parasites of humans (causing serious tropi


Pharynx Ventral nerve Excretory tube




Tough Cuticle Worms

cal diseases such as trichinosis, filariasis, and elephantiasis), domestic animals, and economically important plants have been studied intensively in an effort to find ways of controlling them. One soil-inhabiting nematode, Caenorhabitis ele-gans, is a "model organism" in the laboratories of geneticists and developmental biologists.

The structure of parasitic roundworms is similar to that of free-living species, but the life cycles of many parasitic species have special stages that facilitate the transfer of individuals among hosts. Trichinella spiralis, the species that causes the human disease trichinosis, has a relatively simple life cycle. A person may become infected by eating the flesh of an animal (usually a pig) containing larvae of Trichinella encysted in its muscles. The larvae are activated in the digestive tract, emerge from their cysts, and attach to the person's intestinal wall, where they feed. Later, they bore through the intestinal wall and are carried in the bloodstream to muscles, where they form new cysts (Figure 33.5b). If present in great numbers, these cysts cause severe pain or death.

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  • liberio
    Do Nematomorpha have body walls thickened with cuticle?
    2 years ago

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