Overview

Brief Summary

There are approximately 6,000 described species of tapeworms (or cestodes). As adults, they are obligate parasites in the gut of vertebrates. Interestingly, tapeworms lack all elements of the digestive system; they possess no mouth or gut of any sort! Instead, they rely on their hosts for nutrients, which they absorb through their body surfaces. In fact, tapeworms possess unique extensions of their body surface called microtriches, that, among other functions, are thought to aid in absorption of host nutrients. The body of a tapeworm consists of two main regions: an attachment region called a scolex that is often highly muscular an adorned with a variety of attachment structures such as hooks, tentacles, and suckers; and the ribbon-like body, called the strobila, that usually consists of a chain of proglottids that generally house a set of male and female reproductive organs. These hermaphroditic flatworms are egg-producing machines! They need to produce so many eggs because tapeworms have complex life cycle’s, often requiring a series of 3 or more hosts to reach adulthood in the digestive tract of their final vertebrate host. It is in this definitive host that tapeworms reach sexual maturity and reproduce.

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There are over 5000 species of tapeworm. All members of this family of flatworms are parasites. Most live in one host as young and another host as an adult. A tapeworm’s head has hooks or suckers that it uses to attach to its host. The pork tapeworm has an average length of 6 to 10 feet. People are infected by it from eating infected pork.

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Ecology

Associations

Known prey organisms

Cestoda (Cestode sp. #1) preys on:
Ciliata mustella
Myxocephalus scorpius
Platichthys flesus
Copepoda

Based on studies in:
Scotland (Estuarine)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • Huxham M, Beany S, Raffaelli D (1996) Do parasites reduce the chances of triangulation in a real food web? Oikos 76:284–300
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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Attachments cling to intestinal wall: pork tapeworm
 

The headlike segment of a pork tapeworm attaches to a host's intestinal wall using suckers and sometimes hooks.

   
  "A typical species, such as the pork tapeworm (Taenia solium), consists of an anterior region known as the scolex, armed with suckers and sometimes hooks, too, for attachment to its host's internal intestinal wall…" (Shuker 2001:166)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Shuker, KPN. 2001. The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature. London: Marshall Editions Ltd. 240 p.
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Functional adaptation

Body surface gathers nutrients: tapeworms
 

The body surface of a tapeworm absorbs nutrients directly from a host's intestines via an absorptive membrane.

   
  "Also, whereas flukes have guts, tapeworms have none, so they must absorb their nutrients directly through their body surface from the intestine of their primary host (normally a vertebrate)." (Shuker 2001:166)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Shuker, KPN. 2001. The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature. London: Marshall Editions Ltd. 240 p.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:1,565Public Records:1,354
Specimens with Sequences:1,440Public Species:92
Specimens with Barcodes:964Public BINs:144
Species:107         
Species With Barcodes:65         
          
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Cestoda

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Genomic DNA is available from 5 specimens with morphological vouchers housed at Museum Victoria
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