Parasitology Research

, Volume 116, Issue 4, pp 1207–1225 | Cite as

Evolutionary anatomy of the muscular apparatus involved in the anchoring of Acanthocephala to the intestinal wall of their vertebrate hosts

Original Paper


Different conceptions exist regarding structure, function, and evolution of the muscles that move the acanthocephalan presoma, including the proboscis, i.e., the usually hooked hold-fast anchoring these endoparasites to the intestinal wall of their vertebrate definitive hosts. In order to clarify the unresolved issues, we carried out a light microscopic analysis of series of semi-thin sections and whole mounts representing the three traditional acanthocephalan classes: Archiacanthocephala (Macracanthorhynchus hirudinaceus), Eoacanthocephala (Paratenuisentis ambiguus, Tenuisentis niloticus), and Palaeacanthocephala (Acanthocephalus anguillae, Echinorhynchus truttae, Pomphorhynchus laevis, Corynosoma sp.). Combining our data with published light, transmission electron, and scanning electron microscopic data, we demonstrate that receptacle protrusor and proboscis receptacle in Archi- and Eoacanthocephala are homologous to the outer and inner wall of the proboscis receptacle in Palaeacanthocephala. Besides the proboscis receptacle and a “surrounding muscle,” the last common ancestor of Acanthocephala presumably possessed a proboscis retractor, receptacle retractor, neck retractor (continuous with lemnisci compressors), and retinacula. These muscles most probably evolved in the acanthocephalan stem line. Moreover, the last common ancestor of Acanthocephala presumably possessed only a single layer of muscular cords under the presomal tegument while the metasomal body wall had circular and longitudinal strands. Two lateral receptacle flexors (also lateral receptacle protrusors), an apical muscle plate (surrounding one or two apical sensory organs), a midventral longitudinal muscle, and the differentiation of longitudinal body wall musculature at the base of the proboscis probably emerged within Archiacanthocephala. All muscles have a common organization principle: a peripheral layer of contractile filaments encloses the cytoplasm.


Apomorphy Thorny-headed worms Functional anatomy Comparative anatomy Evolutionary novelties 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Organismische und Molekulare EvolutionsbiologieJohannes Gutenberg University MainzMainzGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Zoology, Department of Ecology and ParasitologyKarlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)KarlsruheGermany

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