Portal:Cenozoic/Natural world articles/8

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A modern earthworm.

The annelids are a large phylum of segmented worms, with over 2,000 modern species including ragworms, earthworms and leeches. They are found in marine environments from tidal zones to hydrothermal vents, in freshwater, and in moist terrestrial environments. The basic annelid form consists of multiple segments, each of which has the same sets of organs and, in most polychaetes, a pair of parapodia that many species use for locomotion. Septa separate the segments of many species, but are poorly defined or absent in some. Septa also enable annelids to change the shapes of individual segments, which facilitates movement by "ripples" that pass along the body or by undulations. Although many species can reproduce asexually and use similar mechanisms to regenerate after severe injuries, sexual reproduction is the normal method in species whose reproduction has been studied.

Since annelids are soft-bodied, their fossils are rare – mostly jaws and the mineralized tubes that some of the species secreted. Although some late Ediacaran fossils may represent annelids, the oldest known fossil that is identified with confidence comes from about 518 million years ago in the early Cambrian period. Fossils of most modern mobile polychaete groups appeared by the end of the Carboniferous, about 299 million years ago. Scientists disagree about whether some body fossils from the mid Ordovician, about 472 to 461 million years ago, are the remains of oligochaetes, and the earliest certain fossils of the group appear in the Tertiary period, which began 65 million years ago. (see more...)