Moore, Donald V. Department of Microbiology, Southwestern Medical School, University of Texas, Dallas, Texas.
- Body wall
- Giant nuclei
- Reproductive system
- Nervous system
- Excretory system
- Cell constancy
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
A distinct phylum (or class, according to some classifications) of helminths, the adults of which are parasitic in the alimentary canal of vertebrates. They are commonly known as the spiny-headed worms. The phylum comprises the orders Archiacanthocephala, Palaeacanthocephala, and Eoacanthocephala. Over 500 species have been described from all classes of vertebrates, although more species occur in fish than in birds and mammals and only a relatively few species are found in amphibians and reptiles. The geographical distribution of acanthocephalans is worldwide, but genera and species do not have a uniform distribution because some species are confined to limited geographic areas. Host specificity is well established in some species, whereas others exhibit a wide range of host tolerance. The same species never occurs normally, as an adult, in cold-blooded and warm-blooded definitive hosts. More species occur in fish than any other vertebrate; however, Acanthocephala have not been reported from elasmobranch fish. The fact that larval development occurs in arthropods gives support to the postulation that the ancestors of Acanthocephala were parasites of primitive arthropods during or before the Cambrian Period and became parasites of vertebrates as this group arose and utilized arthropods for food. See also: Archiacanthocephala; Eoacanthocephala; Palaeacanthocephala
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