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Physiological Processes of Annelida

6 April, 2016 - 17:26

The skin of annelids is protected by a cuticle that is thinner than the cuticle of the ecdysozoans and does not need to be molted for growth. Chitinous hairlike extensions, anchored in the skin and projecting from the cuticle, called chaetae, are present in every segment in most groups. The chaetae are a defining character of annelids. Polychaete worms have paired, unjointed limbs called parapodia on each segment used for locomotion and breathing. Beneath the cuticle there are two layers of muscle, one running around its circumference (circular) and one running the length of the worm (longitudinal). Annelids have a true coelom in which organs are distributed and bathed in coelomic fluid. Annelids possess a well- developed complete digestive system with specialized organs: mouth, muscular pharynx, esophagus, and crop. A cross-sectional view of a body segment of an earthworm is shown in Figure 15.29; each segment is limited by a membrane that divides the body cavity into compartments.

Annelids have a closed circulatory system with muscular pumping “hearts” in the anterior segments, dorsal and ventralblood vessels that run the length of the body with connections in each segment, and capillaries that service individual tissues. Gas exchange occurs across the moist body surface. Excretion is carried out by pairs of primitive “kidneys” called metanephridia that consist of a convoluted tubule and an open, ciliated funnel present in every segment. Annelids have a well-developed nervous system with two ventral nerve cords and a nerve ring of fused ganglia present around the pharynx.

Figure 15.29 In this schematic showing the basic anatomy of annelids, the digestive system is indicated in green, the nervous system is indicated in yellow, and the circulatory system is indicated in red. 

Annelids may be either monoecious with permanent gonads (as in earthworms and leeches) or dioecious with temporary or seasonal gonads (as in polychaetes).


This video and animation ( provides a close-up look at annelid anatomy.