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a phylum of elongate, mostly cylindrical organisms (thorny headed worms) parasitic in the intestines of all classes of vertebrates.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.
The thorny-headed worms, a phylum (formerly considered a class) of obligatory parasites without an alimentary canal, characterized by an anterior introvertible spiny proboscis. They superficially resemble nematodes but are cestodelike in other traits, and hence are grouped as a distinctive phylum of helminths. In the adult stage they are parasites of vertebrate animals, mostly fish and amphibians; the larval stage is passed in invertebrates, chiefly crustaceans and insects.
[acantho- + G. kephalē, head]
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