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Jamela Ayongao Date Performed: 23 August 2010

2009-08508 Date Submitted: 1 September 2010

Exercise 25: Animal Diversity
Phylum 4: Platyhelminthes

I. Introduction

The flatworms, known in scientific literature as Platyhelminthes are a phylum of relatively

simple bilaterian, unsegmented, soft-bodied invertebrate animals. The word Platyhelminthes
is derived from the Greek word ‘platy’ for flat and ‘helminthes’ for worms. Unlike other
bilaterians, they have no body cavity, and no specialized circulatory and respiratory organs,
which restricts them to flattened shapes that allow oxygen and nutrients to pass through their
bodies by diffusion. In traditional zoology texts Platyhelminthes are divided into Turbellaria,
which are mostly non-parasitic animals such as planarians, and three entirely parasitic groups:
Cestoda, Trematoda and Monogenea.

This exercise aims to:
1. study the Phylum Platyhelminthes;
2. know the different features of the phylum; and
3. know the uniqueness of organisms of each class.

II. Materials and Method

Slide with sample (Examples of different platyhelminthes)

1. Prepare the microscope and the slides with samples.

2. View each sample properly and clearly using the right magnifications. Try
different magnifications to find the correct and suitable one to view the sample.
3. Study and draw each sample in a notebook or paper and specify the magnification
4. Research about the Phylum Platyhelminthes and include them in your results and

III. Results and Discussions

A. Characteristics of Platyhelminthes:
1. Bilaterally symmetrical and triploblastic body (composed of three fundamental cell
2. The body is usually flattened dorsoventrally and no true segmentation is present.
3. The Epidermis is soft and ciliated, or covered with cuticle and it has external suckers
or hooks, or both for connection to host.
4. Absence of the body cavity except the gut;
5. It has a Digestive system which is incomplete i.e. it has a mouth but no anus and
usually much branched.
6. It has a Protonephridial excretory organ instead of an anus.
7. Absence of skeletal, circulatory or respiratory, it has normally a nervous system of
longitudinal fibers with transverse commissures.
8. As they are hermaphrodites the reproduction is mostly sexual and the Fertilization
occurs internally.

Table 1.0 Comparison between Other Organisms and Platyhelminthes

Cnidarians and More "advanced"

Ctenophores bilaterians
Bilateral symmetry No Yes
Two, with jelly-like
Number of main cell layers Three
layer between them
Distinct brain No Yes
Specialized digestive
No Yes
Specialized excretory
No Yes
Body cavity containing
No Yes
internal organs
Specialized circulatory and
No Yes
respiratory organs

B. Classification

Class Turbellaria:

• They are free living flatworms

• They are carnivorous
• They are usually covered with ciliated epidermis,
• They are typically creeping worms that combine muscular with ciliary movement to
achieve locomotion.
• The mouth is on the ventral side.
• They lack organs for gas exchange and circulation.
• E.g. Planaria (figures 12-13)

Most are predators or scavengers, and terrestrial species are mostly nocturnal and live in
shaded humid locations such as leaf litter or rotting wood. However, some are symbiotes of other
animals such as crustaceans, and some are parasites. Free-living turbellarians are mostly black,
brown or gray, but some larger ones are brightly colored.

Turbellarians have no cuticle (external layer of organic but non-cellular material). In a few
species the skin is a syncitium, a collection of cells with multiple nuclei and a single shared
external membrane. However the skins of most species consist of a single layer of cells, each of
which generally has multiple cilia (small mobile "hairs"), although in some large species the
upper surface has no cilia. They have many glands, usually submerged in the muscle layers
below the skin and connect to the surface by pores through which they secrete mucus, adhesives
and other substances. Small aquatic species use the cilia for locomotion, while larger ones use
muscular movements of the whole body or of a specialized sole to creep or swim.

Most turbellarians have pigment-cup ocelli ("little eyes"), one pair in most species but two or
even three pairs in some. A few large species have many eyes in clusters over the brain, mounted
on tentacles, or spaced uniformly round the edge of the body. The ocelli can only distinguish the
direction from which light is coming and enable the animals to avoid it. A few groups have
statocysts, fluid-filled chambers containing a small solid particle or, in a few groups, two. These
statocysts are thought to be balance and acceleration sensors. On the other hand most have
ciliated touch-sensor cells scattered over their bodies, especially on tentacles and around the

All turbellarians are hermaphrodites, in other words have both female and male reproductive
cells, and fertilize eggs internally by copulation. Some of the larger aquatic species mate by penis
fencing, a duel in which each tries to impregnate the other, and the loser adopts the female role
of developing the eggs. In most species "miniature adults" emerge when the eggs hatch, but a
few large species produce plankton-like larvae.

Class Trematoda

• They are often called flukes

• All members are parasitic
• Use intermediate hosts for completing their life cycle.
• Develop hooks and suckers for parasitic mode of life
• Trematodes are hermaphrodites. They show sexual reproduction.
• eg. Schistosoma (figure 9-10 & 14-15), Paragonimus, Clonorchis sinensis (figure 11)

These parasites' name refers to the cavity in their holdfasts which resemble suckers and
anchor them within their hosts. The skin of all species is a syncitium, a layer of cells that shares a
single external membrane. Trematodes are divided into two groups, Digenea and Aspidogastrea
(also known as Aspodibothrea).

-Subclass Digenea

These are often called flukes as most have flat rhomboid shapes like that of a flounder.
Adults usually have two holdfasts, a ring round the mouth and a larger sucker midway along
what would be the underside in a free-living flatworm. Although the name "Digeneans" means
"two generations", most have very complex lifecycles with up to seven stages, depending on
what combinations of environments the early stages encounter – most importantly whether the
eggs are deposited on land or in water. The intermediate stages transfer the parasites from one
host to another. The definitive host in which adults develop is a land vertebrate, the earliest host
of juvenile stages is usually a snail that may live on land or in water, and in many cases a fish or
arthropod is the second host.
Adults of different species infest different parts of the definitive host. The adults use a
relatively large, muscular pharynx to ingest cells, cell fragments, mucus, body fluids or blood. In
both the adults and the stages that life in snails, the external syncytium absorbs dissolved
nutrients from the host. Adult digeneans can live without oxygen for long periods.

-Subclass Aspidogastrea

Members of this small group have either a single divided sucker or a row of suckers that
cover the underside. They infest the guts of bony or cartilaginous fish and of turtles, and the
body cavities of marine and freshwater bivalves and gastropods. Their eggs produce ciliated
swimming larvae, and the life-cycle has one or two hosts.

Class Cestoda

• They include Tapeworms

• They are parasitic
• Scolex in adult hooks onto the host intestines
• Proglottids for reproduction
• Eggs eaten by intemediate host and larva develops
• Final host infected by eating intermediate host encysted with larva forms
• Eg: Diphylllobothrium latum (see figure 19), Taenia saginata (see figure 2 & 8), Taenia
solium (see figure 3-5)

These are often called tapeworms because of their flat, slender but very long bodies – the
name "cestode" is derived from the Latin word cestus, which means "tape". The adults of cestode
species are internal parasites in the organs of vertebrates. The head is generally tiny compared to
the size of the whole animal, and forms a scolex that attaches the parasite to the lining of the
host's gut. The commonest type of scolex has four suckers round the sides and a disk equipped
with hooks at the end.

Cestodes have no mouths or guts, and the syncitial skin absorbs nutrients – mainly
carbohydrates and amino acids – from the host, and also disguises it chemically to avoid attacks
by the host's immune system. Shortage of carbohydrates in the host's diet stunts the growth of the
parasites and kills some. Their metabolisms generally use simple but inefficient chemical
processes, and the parasites compensate by consuming large amounts of food relative to their

In the majority of species, known as eucestodes ("true tapeworms"), the neck produces a
chain of segments called proglottids by a process known as strobilation. Each proglottid has both
male and female reproductive organs. If the host's gut contains two or more adults of the same
cestode species, they generally fertilize each other; but proglottids of the same worm can fertilize
each other and even fertilize themselves. When the eggs are fully developed, the proglottids
separate and are excreted by the host. The eucestode life-cycle is less complex than that of
digeneans, but varies depending on the species.

Class Monogenea
• Monogeneans are external parasitesof fishes and other aquatic vertebrates.
• They have hooks and suckers.
• Reproduction is sexual. They are hermaphrodites.
• Eg: Amphibdella, Isancistrum, Entobdella soleae, Dactylogyrus vastator

There are about 1,100 species of monogeans. Most are external parasites that require
particular host species, mainly fish but in some cases amphibians or aquatic reptiles. However,
some are internal parasites. Adult monogeans have large attachment organs at the rear, haptors,
which have suckers and hooks. To minimize water-resistance they have flattened bodies. In some
species the pharynx secretes enzymes that digest the host's skin, allowing the parasite to feed on
blood and cellular debris. Others graze externally on mucus and flakes of the host's skin. The
name "Monogenea" is based on the fact that these parasites have only one non-larval generation.

C. Life Cycles

The lifecycle of the platyhelminthes may be divided into a number of discrete stages, not all
of which are found in all of the groups.

1) The platyhelminth egg

The platyhelminth egg may take a number of forms, depending on the class or species of
worm. In some platyhelminthes, the eggs food reserves are located in yolk, or vitelline, cells
(produced by vitelline glands) around the egg. Masses of eggs and vitelline cells are deposited
together, surrounded by a thin shell to form a capsule, often attached to a substrate by a stalk.

In the parasitic groups a single egg, and accompanying vitelline cells, are surrounded by a
capsule, the egg shell the formation of this egg being characteristic for the group. Briefly, as the
egg enters the ootype of the parasite it becomes surrounded by a predetermined number of
vitelline cells, which form the food reserve of the egg. In addition these vitelline cells produce
globules of a mixture of proteins and phenols, which are extruded to the outer surface of the
developing egg. Here the phenols oxidise to form quinone, which then coalesces with the
protein, reacting to form scleratin, a hard inert yellowish substance, making up the egg shell. In
most of the groups (monogeneans, aspidogastreans, most digeneans and many cestodes) these
eggs are operculate.

The eggs of the monogeneans are characterised by having either one or two filaments
attached to the ends of the eggs. These filaments may be very short, or many times the length of
the egg. Occasionally the eggs of some digeneans may also bear filaments, although these are
more generally oval in shape, and brown in colour due to quinone-tanning of egg shell

2) The emergent free swimming larvae

In the turbellarians the egg capsule opens to release juvenile flatworms, which simply grow
into the adult form. One interesting observation is that the symbiotic and parasitic turbellarians
produce many more eggs than the entirely free living species. This adaptation, which in mirrored
in the parasitic classes which also generally produce high numbers of eggs, is probably necessary
for this mode of life to compensate for the many individuals that never succeed in infecting a
new host.

In contrast to the free living forms, the parasitic classes all have larval forms emerging from
the egg that differ considerably from the adult parasite. One fairly common feature, and one that
betrays their origin among the free living organisms, is that the outer surface of the newly
hatched parasitic platyhelminth consists of a layer of ciliated epidermal cells, similar to the outer
surface of the free living forms. Among the other group, the cestodes, the egg hatches to release a
ciliated coracidium, which is internally structurally very similar to the cyclophyllidean
onchosphere except that the onchosphere is not a free swimming form and must be ingested to
infect its host. In the cases of the free swimming cilliated larvae, those of the trematodes must
infect a mollusk host, whilst those of the pseudophyllidean cestode must infect a copepod, and
the monogenean infect a vertebrate.

3) The first larval parasitic stages

In the parasitic turbellarians, and in the monogeneans and most aspidogastreans there are no
intermediate hosts, and therefore the first parasitic stage is the adult form, brifly described below.
Other groups, such as the digeneans, cestodes and a few aspidogastreans, utilise intermediate
hosts in their lifecycles. These therefore have larval forms, which in cestodes may be found in
many organisms. In the digeneans (and some aspidogastreans where intermediate hosts exist)
mollusks are utilized as intermediate hosts.

The cestodes exhibit many forms, most of which exist encysted within the tissues of these
hosts. In most cases no reproductive cycle occurs in these hosts, but this is not always the case,
cestode within the family Taeniidae, producing many new larvae by budding or within cysts.

In contrast, in the digeneans the intermediate host is a site of intense asexual reproduction,
within the larval forms present here. The digeneans show two main forms, initially a sporocyst,
which may be followed by susequent generations of daughter sporocysts or redia. The sporocyst
itself is a sac-like structure, within which germinal cells give rise to the subsequent generations
of asexually dividing forms within this intermediate host. Sporocysts do not have a gut, but
survive on stored food reserves or nutrients absorbed across the tegument. The redia stage is
similar to that of the sporocyst except that it has a developed digestive system, and may actively
feed on the tissues of its intermediate host. Depending on the species of digenean germinal cells
within either sporocysts or redia give rise to another free swimming larval form, the cercaria.
This leaves its molluscan host, either directly infecting the parasites definitive host.

4) The free living adult platyhelminth

The free living turbellarians (they are primarily aquatic, and the majority are marine
organisms) are mostly predacious or feeding on other dead organisms, although some may feed
on algae, and many feed on diatoms as juveniles, before becoming fully carnivorous as adults.
They mostly live under stones, in mud and sand, or on the surface of aquatic vegetation. There
are a few terrestrial representatives, generally in humid tropical regions, although some may be
found in temperate regions.
5) The adult parasitic platyhelminth

In the case of the cestodes and most digeneans encysted in intermediate hosts (or on
vegetation for some digeneans), infection occurs on ingestion, either of that host or of
contaminated vegetation, by the definitive host. Comparing the different groups, the parasitic
turbellarians, monogeneans and some aspidogastreans are ectoparasitic, feeding by grazing on
the tissues (usually skin or gills) of their hosts. In contrast the digeneans and cestodes, with more
complex lifecycles are endoparasites, usually found within the gastrointestinal tract.

IV. Conclusions

Platyhelminthes are acoelomate animals which show more specialization and division of
labor among their organs than do the radiate animals because the mesoderm makes more
elaborate organs possible. The platyhelminthes are the most primitive groups of animals to have
primary bilateral symmetry, the type of symmetry assumed by all higher animals. Along with the
bilateral symmetry, cephalization was established. There is some centralization of the nervous
system evident to the ladder type of system in flatworms. However, unlike other bilaterians, they
have no body cavity, and no specialized circulatory and respiratory organs, which restrict them to
flattened shapes that allow oxygen and nutrients to pass through their bodies by diffusion.

V. References

Hickman, et. Al.; Integrated Principles of Zoology, 8th Edition; p.214-230; Times Mirror/
Mosby College Publishing; 1988