Phylum Annelida are segmented worms found in marine, terrestrial, and freshwater habitats, but the presence of water or humidity is a critical factor for their survival in terrestrial habitats. The name of the phylum is derived from the Latin word annellus, which means a small ring. Approximately 16,500 species have been described. The phylum includes earthworms, polychaete worms, and leeches. Like mollusks, annelids exhibit protostomic development.
Annelids are bilaterally symmetrical and have a worm-like appearance. Their particular segmented body plan results in repetition of internal and external features in each body segment. This type of body plan is called metamerism. The evolutionary benefit of such a body plan is thought to be the capacity it allows for the evolution of independent modifications in different segments that perform different functions. The overall body can then be divided into head, body, and tail.
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