因为扁形动物没有体腔，它们曾被认为是最原始的两侧对称动物（有两侧对称，有头尾之分的动物）。但是，在1980年代中期以来的研究发现原来被分类为扁形动物的一个群体，无腔动物门，离最初的两侧对称动物较任何其他现代类群更近。除去无腔动物后的扁形动物门是一个单系群，即是有一个共同祖先及其所有后裔组成的。扁形动物门属于冠轮动物，是较复杂的两侧对称动物的三个进化支之一。這些分析顯示出已重新定義、不再包含無腔動物門的扁形動物門，是由兩個單系群，即Catenulida 和 Rhabitophora 所組成的；而絛蟲綱、吸蟲綱和單殖綱組成Rhabitophora的一個分支底下的單系群。因此，傳統上認定的渦蟲綱現在被認為是旁系群，因為其不包含從傳統渦蟲綱分支出去的寄生性物種之類群。
超过一半已知的扁形动物属于 寄生虫, 而且某些物種會對人類以及牲畜造成很大的傷害。血吸蟲病是由吸蟲綱裂體屬的物種所造成的，是所有由寄生蟲造成的人類疾病中第二致命的，僅次於瘧疾。囊蟲腦病變是當豬肉絛蟲的幼體(囊尾幼蟲)侵入中樞神經系統時產生, 是後天獲得之癲癇的主因之一。這些寄生性物種在開發中國家的威脅來自於生食與未完全煮熟之食物受到歡迎，以及從高風險地區的進口。在低度開發的國家中，人們可能無法負擔用以煮熟食物之燃料的費用，再加上設計不良之供水系統以及灌溉工程，使得不良的公共衛生及農業衛生提高被感染之風險。
扁形動物是兩側對稱動物，其左右兩側相互對稱，this also implies they have distinct top and bottom surfaces and distinct head and tail ends. 就像其他的兩側對稱動物，他們擁有三個胚層（內胚層，中胚層，外胚層）， while the radially symmetrical cnidarians and ctenophores (comb jellies) have only two cell layers. Beyond that, they are "defined more by what they do not have than by any particular series of specializations." Unlike other bilaterians, Platyhelminthes have no internal body cavity, so are described as acoelomates. They also lack specialized circulatory and respiratory organs, both of these facts are defining features when classifying a flatworm's anatomy. Their bodies are soft and unsegmented.
|Attribute||Cnidarians and Ctenophores||Platyhelminthes (flatworms)||More "advanced" bilaterians|
|Number of main cell layers||Two, with jelly-like layer between them||Three|
|Specialized digestive system||No||Yes|
|Specialized excretory system||No||Yes|
|Body cavity containing internal organs||No||Yes|
|Specialized circulatory and respiratory organs||No||Yes|
Features common to all subgroups[编辑]
The lack of circulatory and respiratory organs limits platyhelminths to sizes and shapes that enable oxygen to reach and carbon dioxide to leave all parts of their bodies by simple diffusion. Hence, many are microscopic and the large species have flat ribbon-like or leaf-like shapes. The guts of large species have many branches, allowing nutrients to diffuse to all parts of the body. Respiration through the whole surface of the body makes them vulnerable to fluid loss, and restricts them to environments where dehydration is unlikely: sea and freshwater, moist terrestrial environments such as leaf litter or between grains of soil, and as parasites within other animals.
The space between the skin and gut is filled with mesenchyme, a connective tissue made of cells and reinforced by collagen fibers that act as a type of skeleton, providing attachment points for muscles. The mesenchyme contains all the internal organs and allows the passage of oxygen, nutrients and waste products. It consists of two main types of cell: fixed cells, some of which have fluid-filled vacuoles; and stem cells, which can transform into any other type of cell, and are used in regenerating tissues after injury or asexual reproduction.
Most platyhelminths have no anus and regurgitate undigested material through the mouth. However, some long species have an anus and some with complex, branched guts have more than one anus, since excretion only through the mouth would be difficult for them. The gut is lined with a single layer of endodermal cells that absorb and digest food. Some species break up and soften food first by secreting enzymes in the gut or pharynx (throat).
All animals need to keep the concentration of dissolved substances in their body fluids at a fairly constant level. Internal parasites and free-living marine animals live in environments with high concentrations of dissolved material, and generally let their tissues have the same level of concentration as the environment, while freshwater animals need to prevent their body fluids from becoming too dilute. Despite this difference in environments, most platyhelminths use the same system to control the concentration of their body fluids. Flame cells, so called because the beating of their flagella looks like a flickering candle flame, extract from the mesenchyme water that contains wastes and some reusable material, and drive it into networks of tube cells which are lined with flagella and microvilli. The tube cells' flagella drive the water towards exits called nephridiopores, while their microvilli reabsorb reusable materials and as much water as is needed to keep the body fluids at the right concentration. These combinations of flame cells and tube cells are called protonephridia.
In all platyhelminths, the nervous system is concentrated at the head end. This is least marked in the acoels, which have nerve nets rather like those of cnidarians and ctenophores, but densest around the head. Other platyhelminths have rings of ganglia in the head and main nerve trunks running along their bodies.
渦蟲綱包括有物種4500種均能自由遷徙，長度從1 mm（0.039英寸）到600 mm（24英寸）不等。大多數為掠食者或者是食腐動物。多居住在陰暗潮濕的地方，如落葉底下。然而，部分物種會與其他動物（例如：甲殼類動物）共生、甚或是寄生。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 reclassified as a separate phylum.
Some 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 their undersides. Most other turbellarians have a pharynx that is eversible (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 around 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 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 how they sense the movements and positions of the solid particles is unknown. 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.
Planarians, a subgroup 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 closest to the original head. This suggests 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.
The vast majority of turbellarians are hermaphrodites (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.
吸蟲綱的學名Trematoda源自希臘語的τρῆμα，意思就是一個孔洞，refers to the cavities in their holdfasts 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).
These are often called flukes, as most have flat rhomboid shapes like that of a flounder (Old English flóc). There are 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 around 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 life cycles 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 0.2 mm（0.0079英寸） and 6 mm（0.24英寸） 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 live in snails, the external syncytium absorbs dissolved nutrients from the host. Adult digeneans can live without oxygen for long periods.
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.
These parasites attach themselves to their hosts by means of disks that bear crescent-shaped hooks. They are divided into Monogenea and Cestoda.
單殖綱，舊作單殖目，目前包括約1100個物種，絕大多數都是外部寄生蟲，需要特定物種作為中間宿主。體型細小，約2～3 cm長。這些中間宿主以魚類最為常見，但有時也可以是兩棲類或水生爬蟲類動物。少數屬於內部寄生蟲。單殖綱的成蟲在其後端有大型的附著器官，haptors (Greek ἅπτειν, haptein, means "catch"), which have Sucker (parasitic worm anatomy), clamp (zoology), and hooks. They often have flattened bodies. In some species, the 咽 secretes enzymes to digest the host's skin, allowing the parasite to feed on blood and cellular debris. Others graze externally on mucus and flakes of the hosts' skins. 「單殖綱」這名稱源由於這些寄生蟲的生命週期只有一個非蚴階段（Nonlarval stage）。
絛蟲有扁瘦但非常長的身體。其學名 “cestode”的字根源於拉丁語的 cestus，意思就是「帶子」。這3400個絛蟲的物種的成蟲都是內部寄生蟲。牠們沒有口部和腸臟， 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 they 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米（66英尺） long, although 4米（13英尺） 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 larva 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 10毫米（0.39英寸） 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 relationships[编辑]
The oldest confidently identified parasitic flatworm fossils are cestode eggs found in a Permian shark coprolite, but helminth hooks still attached to Devonian acanthodians and placoderms might also represent parasitic flatworms with simple life cycles. The oldest known free-living platyhelminth specimen is a fossil preserved in Eocene age Baltic amber and placed in the monotypic species Micropalaeosoma balticus, while the oldest subfossil specimens are schistosome eggs discovered in ancient Egyptian mummies. 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 2007 study 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 whose only well-defined organ is a statocyst, was originally classified as a "primitive turbellarian". However, it has recently been reclassified as a deuterostome.
The Platyhelminthes excluding Acoelomorpha contain two main groups, Catenulida and Rhabditophora, both of which are generally agreed to be monophyletic (each contains all and only the descendants of an ancestor that 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 they could, therefore Platyhelminthes could be redefined as Catenulida plus Rhabditophora, excluding the Acoelomorpha.
Other molecular phylogenetics analyses agree the redefined Platyhelminthes are most closely related to Gastrotricha, and both are part of a grouping known as Platyzoa. Platyzoa are generally agreed to be at least closely related to the Lophotrochozoa, a superphylum 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".
An outline of the origins of the parasitic life style has been proposed. Epithelial feeding monopisthocotyleans on fish hosts are basal in the Neodermata and were the first shift to parasitism from free living ancestors. The next evolutionary step was a dietary change from epithelium to blood. The last common ancestor of Digenea + Cestoda was monogenean and most likely sanguinivorous.
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 estimated 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 seafood. 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, seafood 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 (night soil) as fertilizer and to enrich fish farm ponds continues to spread parasitic platyhelminths, 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. While poorer countries still struggle with unintentional infection, cases have been reported of intentional infection in the US by dieters desperate for rapid weight-loss.
There is concern about the proliferation in northwest Europe, including the British Isles, of the New Zealand planarian Arthurdendyus triangulatus and the Australian flatworm Australoplana sanguinea, both of which prey 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. However, 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 their ability to decimate A. fulica. However, these abilities have raised concerns that planarians may themselves become a serious threat to native snails. 
A study in La Plata, Argentina shows the potential for planarians such as Girardia anceps, Mesostoma ehrenbergii, and Bothromesostoma evelinae to reduce populations of the mosquito species Aedes aegypti and Culex pipiens. The experiment showed that G. anceps in particular can prey on all instars of both mosquito species and maintain a steady predation rate over time. The ability for these flatworms to live in artificial containers showed the potential of placing these species in popular mosquito breeding sites, which would ideally reduce the amount of mosquito-borne diseases.
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