By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Describe the structure and systems of flatworms
- Describe the structural organization of nematodes
- Compare the internal systems and the appendage specialization of arthropods
The animal phyla of this and subsequent modules are triploblastic and have an embryonic mesoderm sandwiched between the ectoderm and endoderm. These phyla are also bilaterally symmetrical, meaning that a longitudinal section will divide them into right and left sides that are mirror images of each other. Associated with bilateralism is the beginning of cephalization, the evolution of a concentration of nervous tissues and sensory organs in the head of the organism, which is where the organism first encounters its environment.
The flatworms are acoelomate organisms that include free-living and parasitic forms. The nematodes, or roundworms, possess a pseudocoelom and consist of both free-living and parasitic forms. Finally, the arthropods, one of the most successful taxonomic groups on the planet, are coelomate organisms with a hard exoskeleton and jointed appendages. The nematodes and the arthropods belong to a clade with a common ancestor, called Ecdysozoa. The name comes from the word ecdysis, which refers to the periodic shedding, or molting, of the exoskeleton. The ecdysozoan phyla have a hard cuticle covering their bodies that must be periodically shed and replaced for them to increase in size.