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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the structural organization of nematodes
  • Understand the importance of Caenorhabditis elegans in research
  • Compare the internal systems and appendage specializations of phylum Arthropoda
  • Discuss the environmental importance of arthropods
  • Discuss the reasons for arthropod success and abundance

Superphylum ecdysozoa

The superphylum Ecdysozoa contains an incredibly large number of species. This is because it contains two of the most diverse animal groups: phylum Nematoda (the roundworms) and Phylum Arthropoda (the arthropods). The most prominant distinguising feature of Ecdysozoans is their tough external covering called the cuticle. The cuticle provides a tough, but flexible exoskeleton tht protects these animals from water loss, predators and other aspects of the external environment. All members of this superphylum periodically molt, or shed their cuticle as they grow. After molting, they secrete a new cuticle that will last until their next growth phase. The process of molting and replacing the cuticle is called ecdysis, which is how the superphylum derived its name.

Phylum nematoda

The Nematoda, like most other animal phyla, are triploblastic and possess an embryonic mesoderm that is sandwiched between the ectoderm and endoderm. They are also bilaterally symmetrical, meaning that a longitudinal section will divide them into right and left sides that are symmetrical. Furthermore, the nematodes, or roundworms, possess a pseudocoelom and consist of both free-living and parasitic forms.

It has been said that were all the non-nematode matter of the biosphere removed, there would remain a shadow of the former world in the form of nematodes. Stoll, N. R., “This wormy world. 1947,” Journal of Parasitology 85(3) (1999): 392-396. The arthropods, one of the most successful taxonomic groups on the planet, are coelomate organisms characterized by a hard exoskeleton and jointed appendages. Both the nematodes and arthropods belong to the superphylum Ecdysozoa that is believed to be a clade consisting of all evolutionary descendants from one common ancestor. The name derives from the word ecdysis, which refers to the shedding, or molting, of the exoskeleton. The phyla in this group have a hard cuticle that covers their bodies, which must be periodically shed and replaced for them to increase in size.

Phylum Nematoda    includes more than 28,000 species with an estimated 16,000 being parasitic in nature. The name Nematoda is derived from the Greek word “Nemos,” which means “thread” and includes roundworms. Nematodes are present in all habitats with a large number of individuals of each species present in each. The free-living nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans has been extensively used as a model system in laboratories all over the world.

Morphology

In contrast with cnidarians, nematodes show a tubular morphology and circular cross-section. These animals are pseudocoelomates and show the presence of a complete digestive system with a distinct mouth and anus. This is in contrast with the cnidarians, where only one opening is present (an incomplete digestive system).

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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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