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Freshwater bryozoan with lophophore extended
A brachidium (coiled structure), supporting the lophophore (feeding organ), visible between the valves of the Early Jurassic (Pliensbachian) brachiopod Spiriferina rostrata (35 x 30 mm)
An extinct lophophorate: a Devonian microconchid (Potter Farm Formation, Alpena, Michigan)

The lophophore (/ˈlɒfəˌfɔːr, ˈlfə-/)[1] is a characteristic feeding organ possessed by four major groups of animals: the Brachiopoda, Bryozoa, Hyolitha, and Phoronida, which collectively constitute the protostome group Lophophorata.[2] All lophophores are found in aquatic organisms.


Lophophore is derived from the Greek lophos (crest, tuft) and -phore, -phoros (φορος) (bearing), a derivative of phérein (φέρειν) (to bear); thus crest-bearing.


The lophophore can most easily be described as a ring of ciliated tentacles surrounding the mouth, but it is often horseshoe-shaped or coiled. Phoronids have their lophophores in plain view, but the valves of brachiopods must be opened wide to get a good view of their lophophore.

The lophophore surrounds the mouth and is an upstream collecting system for suspension feeding. Its tentacles are hollow, with extensions of a coelomic space thought to be a mesocoel. The gut is U-shaped with the anterior mouth at the center of the lophophore. The anus, where present, is also anterior, but is dorsal to the mouth. In the Bryozoa, it is outside the ring of the lophophore. The inarticulate brachiopods do not have an anus.

Classification of lophophorates[edit]

Groups with lophophores are called lophophorates. In the old view of metazoan phylogeny, the lophophorates were placed within the Deuterostomia. Now,[when?] they have been reassessed and placed in a new superphylum known as the Lophotrochozoa[3] in the Protostomia, which includes the Mollusca and Annelida.

Newer phylogeny place the bryozoans in the group Polyzoa, which also includes entoproctans and Cycliophora, while molluscs, brachiozoans and annelids make up their own group, with brachiozoans and annelids as possible sister taxa.[4][5]

The extinct hederelloids, microconchids, cornulitids, and tentaculitids were likely lophophorates based on their biomineralization.[6]

The position of the Hyolitha has long been disputed, but as of 2017, it has been assigned to the Lophophorata as finely-preserved specimens in the Burgess Shale can be seen to carry lophophores.[7] Lophophorates did appear paraphyletic, but that is contested.[8][9][10]


  1. ^ "lophophore". Dictionary.com Unabridged (Online). n.d.
  2. ^ Introduction to the Lophotrochozoa – Retrieved 3 May 2010
  3. ^ Giribet, G. (2008). "Assembling the lophotrochozoan (=spiralian) tree of life". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 363 (1496): 1513–1522. doi:10.1098/rstb.2007.2241. PMC 2614230. PMID 18192183.
  4. ^ Polyzoa is back: The effect of complete gene sets on the placement of Ectoprocta and Entoprocta
  5. ^ Armoured worm reveals the ancestry of three major animal groups
  6. ^ Taylor, P.D.; Vinn, O.; Wilson, M. (2010). "Evolution of biomineralization in 'lophophorates'". Special Papers in Palaeontology. 84: 317–333. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  7. ^ Moysiuk, Joseph; Smith, Martin R.; Caron, Jean-Bernard (2017). "Hyoliths are Palaeozoic lophophorates" (PDF). Nature. 541 (7637): 394–397. doi:10.1038/nature20804. PMID 28077871. S2CID 4409157.
  8. ^ Passamaneck, Y.; Halanych, K.M. (July 2006). "Lophotrochozoan phylogeny assessed with LSU and SSU data: evidence of lophophorate polyphyly". Mol Phylogenet Evol. 40 (1): 20–28. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.02.001. PMID 16556507.
  9. ^ Struck, Torsten H.; Wey-Fabrizius, Alexandra R.; Golombek, Anja; Hering, Lars; Weigert, Anne; Bleidorn, Christoph; Klebow, Sabrina; Iakovenko, Nataliia; Hausdorf, Bernhard (1 July 2014). "Platyzoan Paraphyly Based on Phylogenomic Data Supports a Noncoelomate Ancestry of Spiralia". Molecular Biology and Evolution. 31 (7): 1833–1849. doi:10.1093/molbev/msu143. ISSN 0737-4038. PMID 24748651.
  10. ^ Nesnidal, Maximilian P.; Helmkampf, Martin; Meyer, Achim; Witek, Alexander; Bruchhaus, Iris; Ebersberger, Ingo; Hankeln, Thomas; Lieb, Bernhard; Struck, Torsten H. (17 November 2013). "New phylogenomic data support the monophyly of Lophophorata and an Ectoproct-Phoronid clade and indicate that Polyzoa and Kryptrochozoa are caused by systematic bias". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 13: 253. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-253. ISSN 1471-2148. PMC 4225663. PMID 24238092.