Biology of the Integument

pp 234-241


  • P. J. WhitfieldAffiliated withZoology Department, King’s College

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The Acanthocephala represent an entirely parasitic taxon of pseudocoelomate worms. Their general biology has been reviewed by Crompton (1970) and Nicholas (1973). They are all dioecious, gutless endoparasitic helminths utilizing indirect life cycle strategies. Larval ontogenesis takes place in invertebrates after these hosts ingest an acanthor larva within an egg. After passing through an acanthella phase, a resistant, infective stage, the cystacanth develops in the intermediate host body cavity. Vertebrate definitive hosts acquire adult acantho-cephalan infections by ingesting cystacanths within invertebrate prey. Adult worms in such infections are invariably parasites of the intestinal region of the host’s alimentary tract and are attached to the luminal surface of the gut by a penetrative, hook-bearing proboscis.