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| Bedford's flatworm, Pseudobiceros bedfordi|
Bedford's flatworm, Pseudobiceros bedfordi
The flatworms, known in scientific literature as Platyhelminthes or Plathelminthes (from the Greek πλατύ, platy, meaning "flat" and ἕλμινς (root: ἑλμινθ-), helminth-, meaning worm) are a phylum of relatively simple bilaterian, unsegmented, soft-bodied invertebrate animals. Unlike other bilaterians they have no body cavity, and no specialized circulatory and respiratory organs, which restricts them to flattened shapes that allow oxygen and nutrients to pass through their bodies by diffusion.
In traditional zoology texts Platyhelminthes are divided into Turbellaria, which are mostly non-parasitic animals such as planarians, and three entirely parasitic groups: Cestoda, Trematoda and Monogenea. Turbellarians are mostly predators, and live in water or in shaded, humid terrestrial environments such as leaf litter. Cestodes (tapeworms) and trematodes (flukes) have complex life-cycles, with mature stages that live as parasites in the digestive systems of fish or land vertebrates, and intermediate stages that infest secondary hosts. The eggs of trematodes are excreted from their main hosts, whereas adult cestodes generate vast numbers of hermaphroditic, segment-like proglottids which detach when mature, are excreted and then release eggs. Unlike the other parasitic groups, the monogeneans are external parasites infesting aquatic animals, and their larvae metamorphose into the adult form after attaching to a suitable host.
Because they do not have internal body cavities, for over a century Platyhelminthes were regarded as a primitive stage in the evolution of bilaterians (animals with bilateral symmetry and hence with distinct front and rear ends). However, analyses since the mid-1980s have separated out one sub-group, the Acoelomorpha, as basal bilaterians, in other words closer to the original bilaterians than to any other modern groups. The remaining Platyhelminthes form a monophyletic group, in other words one that contains all and only descendants of a common ancestor that is itself a member of the group. The redefined Platyhelminthes is part of the Lophotrochozoa, one of the three main groups of more complex bilaterians. These analyses have also concluded that the redefined Platyhelminthes, excluding Acoelomorpha, consists of two monophyletic sub-groups, Catenulida and Rhabditophora, and that Cestoda, Trematoda and Monogenea form a monophyletic sub-group within one branch of the Rhabditophora. Hence the traditional platyhelminth sub-group "Turbellaria" is now regarded as paraphyletic since it excludes the wholly-parasitic groups although these are descended from one group of "turbellarians".
Over half of all known flatworm species are parasitic, and some do enormous harm to humans and their livestock. Schistosomiasis, caused by one genus of trematodes, is the second most devastating of all human diseases caused by parasites, surpassed only by malaria. Neurocysticercosis, which arises when larvae of the pork tapeworm Taenia solium penetrate the central nervous system, is the major cause of acquired epilepsy worldwide. The threat of platyhelminth parasites to humans in developed countries is rising because of organic farming, the popularity of raw or lightly-cooked foods, and imports of food from high-risk areas. In less developed countries, people often cannot afford the fuel required to cook food thoroughly, and poorly-designed water-supply and irrigation projects increase the dangers presented by poor sanitation and unhygienic farming.
Two planarian species have been used successfully in the Philippines, Indonesia, Hawaii, New Guinea and Guam to control populations of the imported giant African snail Achatina fulica, which was displacing native snails. However, there is now concern that these planarians may themselves become a serious threat to native snails. In North-west Europe there are concerns about the spread of the New Zealand planarian Arthurdendyus triangulatus, which preys on earthworms.
- Main article: Turbellaria
These have about 4,500 species, are mostly free-living, and range from Template:Convert/mmTemplate:Convert/test/Aon to Template:Convert/mmTemplate:Convert/test/Aon in length. Most are predators or scavengers, and terrestrial species are mostly nocturnal and live in shaded humid locations such as leaf litter or rotting wood. However, some are symbiotes of other animals such as crustaceans, and some are parasites. Free-living turbellarians are mostly black, brown or gray, but some larger ones are brightly colored. The Acoela and Nemertodermatida were traditionally regarded as turbellarians,, but are now regarded as members of a separate phylum, the Acoelomorpha, or as two separate phyla. Xenoturbella, a genus of very simple animals, has also been re-classified as a separate phylum.
Turbellarians have no cuticle (external layer of organic but non-cellular material). In a few species the skin is a syncitium, a collection of cells with multiple nuclei and a single shared external membrane. However the skins of most species consist of a single layer of cells, each of which generally has multiple cilia (small mobile "hairs"), although in some large species the upper surface has no cilia. These skins are also covered with microvilli between the cilia. They have many glands, usually submerged in the muscle layers below the skin and connect to the surface by pores through which they secrete mucus, adhesives and other substances.
Small aquatic species use the cilia for locomotion, while larger ones use muscular movements of the whole body or of a specialized sole to creep or swim. Some are capable of burrowing, anchoring their rear ends at the bottom of the burrow and then stretching the head up to feed and then pulling it back down for safety. Some terrestrial species throw a thread of mucus which they use as a rope to climb from one leaf to another.
The acoel Convoluta roscoffensis swallows cells of the green alga Tetraselmis and does not feed as an adult, presumably relying on the alge to provide nourishment as endosymbionts. In other acoels the gut is lined by a syncitium. These and some other turbellarians have a simple pharynx lined with cilia and generally feed by using cilia to sweep food particles and small prey into their mouths, which are usually in the middle of the underside. Most other turbellarians have a pharynx that is eversible, in other words can be extended by being turned inside-out, and the mouths of different species can be anywhere along the underside. The freshwater species Microstomum caudatum can open its mouth almost as wide as its body is long, to swallow prey about as large as itself.
Most turbellarians have pigment-cup ocelli ("little eyes"), one pair in most species but two or even three pairs in some. A few large species have many eyes in clusters over the brain, mounted on tentacles, or spaced uniformly round the edge of the body. The ocelli can only distinguish the direction from which light is coming and enable the animals to avoid it. A few groups – mainly catenulids, acoelomorphs and seriates – have statocysts, fluid-filled chambers containing a small solid particle or, in a few groups, two. These statocysts are thought to be balance and acceleration sensors, as that is the function they perform in cnidarian medusae and in ctenophores. However, turbellarian statocysts have no sensory cilia, and it is unknown how they sense the movements and positions of the solid particles. On the other hand most have ciliated touch-sensor cells scattered over their bodies, especially on tentacles and around the edges. Specialized cells in pits or grooves on the head are probably smell-sensors.
Planaria, a sub-group of seriates, are famous for their ability to regenerate if divided by cuts across their bodies. Experiments show that, in fragments that do not already have a head, a new head grows most quickly on those that were closest to the original head. This suggests that the growth of a head is controlled by a chemical whose concentration diminishes from head to tail. Many turbellarians clone themselves by transverse or longitudinal division, and others, especially acoels, reproduce by budding.
All turbellarians are hermaphrodites, in other words have both female and male reproductive cells, and fertilize eggs internally by copulation. Some of the larger aquatic species mate by penis fencing, a duel in which each tries to impregnate the other, and the loser adopts the female role of developing the eggs. In most species "miniature adults" emerge when the eggs hatch, but a few large species produce plankton-like larvae.
- Main article: Trematoda
These parasites' name refers to the cavity in their holdfasts (Greek τρῆμα, hole), which resemble suckers and anchor them within their hosts. The skin of all species is a syncitium, a layer of cells that shares a single external membrane. Trematodes are divided into two groups, Digenea and Aspidogastrea (also known as Aspodibothrea).
- Main article: Digenea
These are often called flukes as most have flat rhomboid shapes like that of a flounder (Old English flóc). They have about 11,000 species, more than all other platyhelminthes combined, and second only to roundworms among parasites on metazoans. Adults usually have two holdfasts, a ring round the mouth and a larger sucker midway along what would be the underside in a free-living flatworm. Although the name "Digeneans" means "two generations", most have very complex lifecycles with up to seven stages, depending on what combinations of environments the early stages encounter – most importantly whether the eggs are deposited on land or in water. The intermediate stages transfer the parasites from one host to another. The definitive host in which adults develop is a land vertebrate, the earliest host of juvenile stages is usually a snail that may live on land or in water, and in many cases a fish or arthropod is the second host. For example, the adjoining illustration shows the life cycle of the intestinal fluke metagonimus, which hatches in the intestine of a snail; moves to a fish where it penetrates the body and encysts in the flesh; then moves to the small intestine of a land animal that eats the fish raw; and then generates eggs that are excreted and ingested by snails, thereby completing the cycle. Schistosomes, which cause the devastating tropical disease bilharzia, belong to this group.
Adults range between Template:Convert/mmTemplate:Convert/test/Aon and Template:Convert/mmTemplate:Convert/test/Aon in length. Individual adult digeneans are of a single sex, and in some species slender females live in enclosed grooves that run along the bodies of the males, and partially emerge to lay eggs. In all species the adults have complex reproductive systems and can produce between 10,000 and 100,000 times as many eggs as a free-living flatworm. In addition the intermediate stages that live in snails reproduce asexually.
Adults of different species infest different parts of the definitive host, for example the intestine, lungs, large blood vessels, and liver. The adults use a relatively large, muscular pharynx to ingest cells, cell fragments, mucus, body fluids or blood. In both the adults and the stages that life in snails, the external syncytium absorbs dissolved nutrients from the host. Adult digeneans can live without oxygen for long periods.
- Main article: Aspidogastrea
Members of this small group have either a single divided sucker or a row of suckers that cover the underside. They infest the guts of bony or cartilaginous fish and of turtles, and the body cavities of marine and freshwater bivalves and gastropods. Their eggs produce ciliated swimming larvae, and the life-cycle has one or two hosts.
This group of parasites attach themselves to the host by means of disks that bear crescent-shaped hooks. They are divided into Monogea and Cestoda.
- Main article: Monogenea
There are about 1,100 species of monogeans. Most are external parasites that require particular host species, mainly fish but in some cases amphibians or aquatic reptiles. However, some are internal parasites. Adult monogeans have large attachment organs at the rear, haptors (Greek ἅπτειν, haptein, means "catch"), which have suckers and hooks. To minimize water-resistance they have flattened bodies. In some species the pharynx secretes enzymes that digest the host's skin, allowing the parasite to feed on blood and cellular debris. Others graze externally on mucus and flakes of the host's skin. The name "Monogenea" is based on the fact that these parasites have only one non-larval generation.
- Main article: Cestoda
These are often called tapeworms because of their flat, slender but very long bodies – the name "cestode" is derived from the Latin word cestus, which means "tape". The adults of all 3,400 cestode species are internal parasites in the organs of vertebrates, including fish, cats, dogs and humans. The head is generally tiny compared to the size of the whole animal, and forms a scolex that attaches the parasite to the lining of the host's gut. The commonest type of scolex has four suckers round the sides and a disk equipped with hooks at the end. However, some species have more complex arrangements, for example Myzophyllobothrium's scolex looks rather like a part-peeled banana, with four sucker-like flaps on the sides and a group of four small suckers on short stalks at the end.
Cestodes have no mouths or guts, and the syncitial skin absorbs nutrients – mainly carbohydrates and amino acids – from the host, and also disguises it chemically to avoid attacks by the host's immune system. Shortage of carbohydrates in the host's diet stunts the growth of the parasites and kills some. Their metabolisms generally use simple but inefficient chemical processes, and the parasites compensate by consuming large amounts of food relative to their size.
In the majority of species, known as eucestodes ("true tapeworms"), the neck produces a chain of segments called proglottids by a process known as strobilation. Hence the most mature proglottids are furthest from the scolex. Adults of Taenia saginata, which infests humans, can form proglottid chains over 20 metres (Template:Convert/ft)Template:Convert/test/A long, although 4 metres (Template:Convert/ft)Template:Convert/test/A is more typical. Each proglottid has both male and female reproductive organs. If the host's gut contains two or more adults of the same cestode species, they generally fertilize each other; but proglottids of the same worm can fertilize each other and even fertilize themselves. When the eggs are fully developed, the proglottids separate and are excreted by the host. The eucestode life-cycle is less complex than that of digeneans, but varies depending on the species. For example:
- Adults of Diphyllobothrium infest fish, and the juveniles use copepod crustaceans as intermediate hosts. Excreted proglottids release their eggs into the water, and the eggs hatch into ciliated swimming larvae. If a larva is swallowed by a copepod, it sheds the cilia and the skin becomes a syncitium and the larvae makes its way into the copepod's hemocoel (internal cavity that is the main part of the circulatory system) and attached itself with three small hooks. If the copepod is eaten by a fish, the larva metamorphoses into a small, unsegmented tapeworm, drills through to the gut and becomes an adult.
- Various species of Taenia infest the guts of humans, cats and dogs. The juveniles use herbivores – for example pigs, cattle and rabbits – as intermediate hosts. Excreted proglottids release eggs that stick to grass leaves and hatch after being swallowed by a herbivore. The larva makes its way to the herbivore's muscles and metamorphoses into an oval worm about Template:Convert/mmTemplate:Convert/test/A long, with a scolex that is kept inside. When the definitive host eats infested and raw or undercooked meat from an intermediate host, the worm's scolex pops out and attaches itself to the gut, and the adult tapeworm develops.
Classification and evolutionary relationshipsEdit
The oldest known platyhelminth specimens are schistosome eggs discovered in ancient Egyptian mummies, and there are no convincing older platyhelminth fossils. The Platyhelminthes have very few synapomorphies, distinguishing features that all Platyhelminthes and no other animals have. This makes it difficult to work out both their relationships with other groups of animals and the relationships between different groups that are described as members of the Platyhelminthes.
The "traditional" view before the 1990s was that Platyhelminthes formed the sister group to all the other bilaterians, which include for example arthropods, molluscs, annelids and chordates. Since then molecular phylogenetics, which aims to work out evolutionary "family trees" by comparing different organisms' biochemicals such as DNA, RNA and proteins, has radically changed scientists' view of evolutionary relationships between animals. Detailed morphological analyses of anatomical features in the mid-1980s and molecular phylogenetics analyses since 2000 using different sections of DNA agree that Acoelomorpha, consisting of Acoela (traditionally regarded as very simple "turbellarians") and Nemertodermatida (another small group previously classified as "turbellarians") are the sister group to all other bilaterians, including the rest of the "Platyhelminthes". However a study in 2007 concluded that Acoela and Nemertodermatida were two distinct groups of bilaterians, although it agreed that both are more closely related to cnidarians (jellyfish, etc.) than other bilaterians are.
Xenoturbella, a bilaterian with whose only well-defined organ is a statocyst, was originally classified as a "primitive turbellarian". However it has recently been re-classified as a deuterostome.
The "Platyhelminthes" excluding "Acoelomorpha" contain two main groups, Catenulida and Rhabditophora, and it is generally agreed that both are monophyletic, in other words each contains all and only the descendants of an ancestor which is a member of the same group. Early molecular phylogenetics analyses of the Catenulida and Rhabditophora left uncertainties about whether these could be combined in a single monophyletic group, but a study in 2008 concluded that they could, and therefore that "Platyhelminthes" could be redefined as Catenulida plus Rhabditophora, excluding the "Acoelomorpha".
Other molecular phylogenetics analyses agree that the redefined "Platyhelminthes" are most closely related to Gastrotricha and that both are part of a grouping known as Platyzoa. It is generally agreed that the Platyzoa are at least closely related to the Lophotrochozoa, a super-phylum that includes molluscs and annelid worms. The majority view is that Platyzoa are part of Lophotrochozoa, but a significant minority of researchers regard Platyzoa as a sister group of Lophotrochozoa.
It has been agreed since 1985 that each of the wholly parasitic platyhelminth groups (Cestoda, Monogenea and Trematoda) is monophyletic, and that together these form a larger monophyletic grouping, the Neodermata, in which the adults of all members have syncitial skins. However there is debate about whether the Cestoda and Monogenea can be combined as an intermediate monophyletic group, the Cercomeromorpha, within the Neodermata. It is generally agreed that the Neodermata are a sub-group a few levels down in the "family tree" of the Rhabditophora. Hence the traditional sub-phylum "Turbellaria" is paraphyletic, since it does not include the Neodermata although these are descendants of a sub-group of "turbellarians".
Interaction with humansEdit
Cestodes (tapeworms) and digeneans (flukes) cause important diseases in humans and their livestock, and monogeneans can cause serious losses of stocks in fish farms. Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia or snail fever, is the second most devastating parasitic disease in tropical countries, behind malaria. The Carter Center estimates that 200 million people in 74 countries are infected with the disease, and half the victims live in Africa. The condition has a low mortality rate, but often is a chronic illness that can damage internal organs. It can impair the growth and cognitive development of children, and increase the risk of bladder cancer in adults. The disease is caused by several flukes of the genus Schistosoma, which can bore through human skin. The people most at risk are those who use infected bodies of water for recreation or laundry.
In 2000 an estimated 45 million people were infected with the beef tapeworm Taenia saginata and 3 million with the pork tapeworm Taenia solium. Infection of the digestive system by adult tapeworms causes abdominal symptoms that are unpleasant but not disabling or life-threatening. However neurocysticercosis resulting from penetration of T. solium larvae into the central nervous system is the major cause of acquired epilepsy worldwide. In 2000 about 39 million people were infected with trematodes (flukes) that naturally parasitize fish and crustaceans but can pass to humans who eat raw or lightly-cooked sea food. Infection of humans by the broad fish tapeworm Diphyllobothrium latum, occasionally causes vitamin B12 deficiency and, in severe cases, megaloblastic anemia.
The threat to humans in developed countries is rising as a result of social trends: the increase in organic farming, which uses manure and sewage sludge rather than artificial fertilizers, and spreads parasites both directly and via the droppings of seagulls which feed on manure and sludge; the increasing popularity of raw or lightly-cooked foods; imports of meat, sea food and salad vegetables from high-risk areas; and, as an underlying cause, reduced awareness of parasites compared with other public health issues such as pollution. In less developed countries inadequate sanitation and the use of human feces as fertilizer and to enrich fish farm ponds continues to spread parasitic platyhelminthes, and poorly-designed water-supply and irrigation projects have provided additional channels for their spread. People in these countries often cannot afford the cost of fuel required to cook food thoroughly enough to kill parasites. Controlling parasites that infect humans and livestock has become more difficult as many species have become resistant to drugs that used to be effective, mainly for killing juveniles in meat.
There is concern about the proliferation in North-west Europe, including the British Isles, of the New Zealand planarian Arthurdendyus triangulatus, which preys on earthworms. A. triangulatus is thought to have reached Europe in containers of plants imported by botanical gardens.
In Hawaii the planarian Endeavouria septemlineata has been used to control the imported giant African snail Achatina fulica, which was displacing native snails, and Platydemus manokwari, another planarian, has been used for the same purpose in Philippines, Indonesia, New Guinea and Guam. Although A. fulica has declined sharply in Hawaii, there are doubts about how much E. septemlineata contributed to this. On the other hand P. manokwari is given credit for severely reducing and in places exterminating A. fulica – achieving much greater success than most biological pest control programs, which generally aim for a low, stable population of the pest species. The ability of planarians to take different kinds of prey and to resist starvation may account for its ability to decimate A. fulica. However these abilities have raised concerns that planarians may themselves become a serious threat to native snails.
See also Edit
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Walker, J.C., and Anderson, D.T. (2001). "The Platyhelminthes" Anderson, D.T., Invertebrate Zoology, 58–80, Oxford University Press.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 Ruppert, E.E., Fox, R.S., and Barnes, R.D. (2004). Invertebrate Zoology, 7, 226–269, Brooks / Cole.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Jondelius, U., Ruiz-Trillo, I., Baguñà, J., Riutort, M. (April 2002). The Nemertodermatida are basal bilaterians and not members of the Platyhelminthes. Zoologica Scripta 31 (2): 201–215.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Halanych, K.M. (December 2004). The New View of Animal Phylogeny. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 35: 229–256.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Larsson, K., and Jondelius, U. (December 2008). Phylogeny of Catenulida and support for Platyhelminthes. Organisms Diversity & Evolution 8 (5): 378–387.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Wallberg, A., Curini-Galletti, M., Ahmadzadeh, A., and Jondelius, U. (September 2007). Dismissal of Acoelomorpha: Acoela and Nemertodermatida are separate early bilaterian clades. Zoologica Scripta 36 (5): 509=523.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 E. Westblad (1949). Xenoturbella bocki n.g., n.sp., a peculiar, primitive turbellarian type. Arkiv för Zoologi 1: 3–29.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1
- S. J. Bourlat,M. Liebert, C. Nielsen, A. E. Lockyer, D. Timothy, J. Littlewood, M. J. Telford (2003). Xenoturbella is a deuterostome that eats molluscs. Nature 424 (6951): 925–928.
- S. J. Bourlat, T. Juliusdottir, C. J. Lowe, R. Freeman, J. Aronowicz, M. Kirschner, E. S. Lander, M. Thorndyke, H. Nakano, A. B. Kohn, A. Heyland, L. L. Moroz, R. R. Copley, M. J. Telford (2006). Deuterostome phylogeny reveals monophyletic chordates and the new phylum Xenoturbellida. Nature 444 (7115): 85–88.
- ↑ Leslie Newman. Fighting to mate: flatworm penis fencing. PBS. URL accessed on 2008-12-21.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 Klaus Rohde (2001). Platyhelminthes (flat worms). Encyclopaedia of Life Sciences.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 The Carter Center. "Schistosomiasis Control Program". URL accessed on 2008-07-17.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Timothy, D., Littlewood, J., Telford, M.J., and Bray, R.A. (2004). "Protostomes and Platyhelminthes" Cracraft, J., and Donoghue, M.J. Assembling the Tree of Life, 209–223, Oxford University Press US. URL accessed 2008-12-23.
- ↑ Carranza, S., Baguñà, J., and Riutort, M. (May 1, 1997). Are the Platyhelminthes a monophyletic primitive group?. Molecular Biology and Evolution 14 (5): 485–497.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Willems, W.R., Wallberg, A., Jondelius, U., et al.. (November 2005). Filling a gap in the phylogeny of flatworms: relationships within the Rhabdocoela (Platyhelminthes), inferred from 18S ribosomal DNA sequences. Zoologica Scripta 35 (1): 1–17.
- ↑ Lockyer, A.E., Olson, P.D., and Littlewood, D.T.J. (2003). Utility of complete large and small subunit rRNA genes in resolving the phylogeny of the Neodermata (Platyhelminthes): implications and a review of the cercomer theory. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 78 (2): 155–171.
- ↑ Ehlers, U. (January 1986). Comments on a phylogenetic system of the Platyhelminthes. Hydrobiologia 132 (1 pages=1–12): 1.
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 Northrop-Clewes, C.A., and Shaw, C. (2000). Parasites. British Medical Bulletin 56 (1): 193–208.
- ↑ García, H.H., Gonzalez, A.E., Evans, C.A.W., and Gilman, R.H. (August 2003). Taenia solium cysticercosis. The Lancet 362 (9383): 547–556.
- ↑ WHO Expert Committee (1987). Public health significance of intestinal parasitic infections. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 65 (5): 575–588.
- ↑ Commission on Tropical Diseases of the International League Against Epilepsy (1994). Relationship Between Epilepsy and Tropical Diseases. Epilepsia 35 (1): 89=93.
- ↑ Boag, B., and Yeates, G.W. (2001). The Potential Impact of the New Zealand Flatworm, a Predator of Earthworms, in Western Europe. Ecological Applications 11 (5): 1276–1286.
- ↑ Barker, G.M. (2004). "Terrestrial planarians" Natural Enemies of Terrestrial Molluscs, 261–263, CABI Publishing. URL accessed 2008-12-24.
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- Marine flatworms of the world.
- Shape Of Life Video about flatworms penis fencing
- Photos of Flatworms from the Indopacific
- Are platyhelminthes coelomates without a coelom? An argument based on the evolution of Hox genes
- Photographic Database of Cambodian Flatworm Species
- [Trematoda 
- [Monogenea 
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