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Hemichordata World Database
Citation
Swalla, B., Shenkar, N. (2012). Hemichordata World Database. Available online at http://www.marinespecies.org/myriapoda. Accessed on yyyy-mm-dd

Access data
Availability: Creative Commons License This dataset is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Description
A world checklist of Hemichordata, compiled by taxonomic experts and based on peer-reviewed literature. more

The Hemichordata are a unique phylum of marine invertebrates found in a wide range of depths and habitats. Two distinctly different body plans exist in this phylum: the large, solitary acorn worms (Class Enteropneusta), and the filter-feeding colonies of the Class Pterobranchia.

The hemichordate body is divided into three parts: proboscis (protostome), collar (mesosome) and trunk (metasome) - reflecting an underlying tricoelomate organization. Hemichordates express all the attributes of Deuterostomia and at least one unique structure, the stomochord, a cartilaginous element that projects into the protocoel and supports the heart/kidney complex. The principal nervous system occurs dorsally in the collar region, and there is also an extensive epidermal nerve net. They have a pharynx in the trunk region, which may contain one or more pairs of gill slits. They have several chordate traits that make the hemichordates an important target of research for understanding deuterostome and chordate evolution.

There are approximately 90 described solitary species in the class Enteropneusta (‘gut-breather’), with many more species not yet described. These worms are benthic inhabitants of mud and sand from shallow waters to the deep sea. A keen observer can often spot the coiled ropelike castings of these animals on exposed tidal flats. They have numerous gill slits, a straight digestive tract and a terminal anus, as adults. They lack tentaculated arms, reproduce sexually by releasing eggs or sperm into the surrounding seawater, and grow from moderate to considerable lengths (2 cm to 2.5 m in the case of Balanoglossus gigas). As exceptionally fragile animals, they have a striking ability of regeneration. Acorn worms may be deposit feeders (the majority of the burrowing species), suspension feeders (nonburrowing species), or both. Food particles are trapped in mucus on the proboscis and transported to the mouth.

In contrast to the relatively common acorn worms, members of the class Pterobranchia (‘gill-wing) are minute colonial animals that superficially resemble bryozoans and hydroids. Pterobranchs are suspension feeders using their hollow, ciliated arms and tentacles to capture small particles from the water. They have a U-shaped digestive tract, may or may not possess gill slits, and exhibit one to ten pairs of ciliated feeding arms. However, pterobranch organ systems are similar to the enteropneusts. They may be found on the surfaces of shells and rocks, but easily overlooked. Only 27 pterobranch species are currently described, assigned to three genera. Pterobranch colonies are hermaphroditic, but the zooids themselves are usually either male, female or immature.

Current hemichordate taxonomy has received some, but limited attention. Most notable was the recent description of the deep sea Torquartoridae with an exceptionally wide collar. However, phylogenetic analyses suggest that these are part of the Ptychoderidae. Only two comprehensive, but dated, monographs exist for enteropneusts and none for pterobranchs. Currently there are 22 recognized hemichordate genera and about 117 recognized species, although many of the genera are made up of a single specimen and are questionable.

Hemichordates have been pivotal for understanding when chordate-like morphological and developmental features evolved. Recent results indicate that colonial pterobranchs evolved from a solitary acorn worm-like hemichordate ancestor and are a sister group to the Harrimaniid enteropenusts, although phylogenomic studies are showing a monophyletic enteropneust group. In addition, recent developmental genes expression data suggest that the chordates and deuterostomes ancestor was a worm-like solitary organism, similarly to enteropneust hemichordates.


Scope
Themes:
Biology, Biology > Ecology - biodiversity, Biology > Invertebrates
Keywords:
Marine, Classification, Marine invertebrates, Species, Taxonomy, World Waters, Hemichordata

Geographical coverage
World Waters [Marine Regions]

Temporal coverage
From 1758 on [In Progress]

Taxonomic coverage
Hemichordata [WoRMS]

Parameter
Taxonomy

Contributor
Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ), moredatabase developer

Related datasets
Published in:
WoRMS: World Register of Marine Species, more

Dataset status: In Progress
Data type: Data
Data origin: Literature research
Metadatarecord created: 2012-07-16
Information last updated: 2014-11-03
All data in IMIS is subject to the VLIZ privacy policy