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Animal Unit Phylum Cnidaria Notes


Phylum Cnidaria includes jellyfish, coral, sea anemones, hydra and sea fans. Most are marine, though Hydra lives in freshwater. Symmetry: radial symmetry 2 cell layers (epidermis & gastroderm), with a jelly-like layer in between called the mesoglea. Cnidarians have tissues. Cnidarians use diffusion for respiration, internal transport and excretion. These layers surround the gastrovascular cavity, where digestion occurs. The gastrovascular cavity has a single opening through which food enters and waste leaves, so cnidarians are said to have a two-way digestive system. Tentacles surround the opening and capture and pull food in. Simple nervous system: nerve net centred around the mouth. Sensory cells: Statocysts help detect which way is up, ocelli (singular: ocellus) help detect presence of light. Question: Do you think a medusa or polyp form is more likely to have statocysts and ocelli? Why?

There are two body forms: the motile medusa (think of a jellyfish) and sessile polyp (think of a sea anemone). Many cnidarians have a life cycle that alternates between the medusa and polyp form (dimorphic life cycle). Question: How do cnidarians move? Do they have muscles?

Cnidarians get their name from the Greek cnida which means nettle. All cnidarians have cnidocytes: specialized cells containing coiled nematocysts. Nematocysts are threads with barbs on the end. They are used to sting and capture prey, and often contain toxins. Asexual reproduction polyps use budding to produce new polyps or medusae. Sexual reproduction medusae (or polyps in cnidarians with only a polyp stage of their life cycle) produce eggs and sperm and release them into the water. Fertilization occurs in the water or in the body of the eggcarrying medusa.

Hint: Use pages 564-569 in your textbook to help answer the following questions: 1. Draw the life cycle of a typical cnidarian (see p. 567). Label: polyp, budding polyp (strobila), swimming larva (planula), female and male medusae, egg, sperm, zygote, young medusa (ephyra). Indicate where sexual and asexual reproduction are occurring. Indicate which stages are sessile and which are motile.

2. Describe how cnidarians capture and digest prey (use proper terminology e.g. nematocyst).

3. What are some advantages of having a motile form in the life cycle?

4. What life form (medusa or polyp) is dominant in each of the classes of cnidarians? Give one example of each. (e.g. box jellyfish) a. Class Hydrozoa

b. Class Scyphozoa

c. Class Anthozoa

5. How do corals differ from sea anemones?

6. Why are coral reefs important to humans?