Animals included in phylum Porifera are Parazoans because they do not show the formation of true tissues (except in class Hexactinellida). These organisms show very simple organization, with a rudimentary endoskeleton. Sponges have multiple cell types that are geared toward executing various metabolic functions. Although these animals are very simple, they perform several complex physiological functions.
Cnidarians represent a more complex level of organization than Porifera. They possess outer and inner tissue layers that sandwich a noncellular mesoglea. Cnidarians possess a well-formed digestive system and carry out extracellular digestion. The cnidocyte is a specialized cell for delivering toxins to prey as well as warning off predators. Cnidarians have separate sexes and have a lifecycle that involves morphologically distinct forms. These animals also show two distinct morphological forms—medusoid and polypoid—at various stages in their lifecycle.
Phylum Annelida includes vermiform, segmented animals. Segmentation is seen in internal anatomy as well, which is called metamerism. Annelids are protostomes. These animals have well-developed neuronal and digestive systems. Some species bear a specialized band of segments known as a clitellum. Annelids show the presence numerous chitinous projections termed chaetae, and polychaetes possess parapodia. Suckers are seen in order Hirudinea. Reproductive strategies include sexual dimorphism, hermaphroditism, and serial hermaphroditism. Internal segmentation is absent in class Hirudinea.
Flatworms are acoelomate, triploblastic animals. They lack circulatory and respiratory systems, and have a rudimentary excretory system. This digestive system is incomplete in most species. There are four traditional classes of flatworms, the largely free-living turbellarians, the ectoparasitic monogeneans, and the endoparasitic trematodes and cestodes. Trematodes have complex lifecycles involving a molluscan secondary host and a primary host in which sexual reproduction takes place. Cestodes, or tapeworms, infect the digestive systems of primary vertebrate hosts.
The rotifers are microscopic, multicellular, mostly aquatic organisms that are currently under taxonomic revision. The group is characterized by the rotating, ciliated, wheel-like structure, the corona, on their head. The mastax or jawed pharynx is another structure unique to this group of organisms.
The nemertini are the simplest eucoelomates. These ribbon-shaped animals bear a specialized proboscis enclosed within a rhynchocoel. The development of a closed circulatory system derived from the coelom is a significant difference seen in this species compared to other pseudocoelomate phyla. Alimentary, nervous, and excretory systems are more developed in the nemertini than in less advanced phyla. Embryonic development of nemertine worms proceeds via a planuliform larval stage.
Phylum Mollusca is a large, marine group of invertebrates. Mollusks show a variety of morphological variations within the phylum. This phylum is also distinct in that some members exhibit a calcareous shell as an external means of protection. Some mollusks have evolved a reduced shell. Mollusks are protostomes. The dorsal epidermis in mollusks is modified to form the mantle, which encloses the mantle cavity and visceral organs. This cavity is quite distinct from the coelomic cavity, which in the adult animal surrounds the heart. Respiration is facilitated by gills known as ctenidia. A chitinous-toothed tongue called the radula is present in most mollusks. Early development in some species occurs via two larval stages: trochophore and veliger. Sexual dimorphism is the predominant sexual strategy in this phylum. Mollusks can be divided into seven classes, each with distinct morphological characteristics.
Nematodes are pseudocoelomate animals akin to flatworms, yet display more advanced neuronal development, a complete digestive system, and a body cavity. This phylum includes free-living as well as parasitic organisms like Caenorhabditis elegans and Ascaris spp., respectively. They include dioeceous as well as hermaphroditic species. Nematodes also possess an excretory system that is not quite well developed. Embryonic development is external and proceeds via three larval stages. A peculiar feature of nematodes is the secretion of a collagenous/chitinous cuticle outside the body.
Arthropods represent the most successful phylum of animal on Earth, in terms of the number of species as well as the number of individuals. These animals are characterized by a segmented body as well as the presence of jointed appendages. In the basic body plan, a pair of appendages is present per body segment. Within the phylum, traditional classification is based on mouthparts, number of appendages, and modifications of appendages present. Arthropods bear a chitinous exoskeleton. Gills, trachea, and book lungs facilitate respiration. Sexual dimorphism is seen in this phylum, and embryonic development includes multiple larval stages.
Echinoderms are deuterostomic marine organisms. This phylum of animals bears a calcareous endoskeleton composed of ossicles. These animals also have spiny skin. Echinoderms possess water-based circulatory systems. A pore termed the madreporite is the point of entry and exit for water into the water vascular system. Osmoregulation is carried out by specialized cells known as podocytes.
The characteristic features of Chordata are a notochord, a dorsal hollow nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, and a post-anal tail. Chordata contains two clades of invertebrates: Urochordata (tunicates) and Cephalochordata (lancelets), together with the vertebrates in Vertebrata. Most tunicates live on the ocean floor and are suspension feeders. Lancelets are suspension feeders that feed on phytoplankton and other microorganisms.