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Ctenophora

Ctenophora (tĬnŏf´ərə), a small phylum of exclusively marine, invertebrate animals, commonly known as comb jellies. Because they are so delicate that specimens are difficult to collect, little was known about them until the advent of blue-water scuba and submersible collecting. Ctenophores are characterized by eight rows consisting of ciliated plates called ctenes (combs), which are radially arranged on the spherical body surface. The animals swim weakly, powered by those structures. The two hemispheres of the ctenophore body are marked by a mouth, or oral pole, on the underside, and an opposite aboral pole, on which is located the statocyst, a unique sense organ controlling equilibrium. Most ctenophores resemble biradially symmetrical (see symmetry, biological) jellyfish (phylum Cnidaria) but lack the cnidarian whorl of tentacles around the mouth. They lack the specialized stinging cells (nematocysts) found in coelenterates, but one species (Haeckelia rubra) incorporates those of its jellyfish prey for its own defense. Ctenophores, which are all carnivorous, have specialized adhesive cells called colloblasts, used to capture planktonic animals on which the ctenophores feed. Approximately 50 species are known, but many become locally abundant and are ecologically significant. They vary from less than 1/4 in. (0.6 cm) to over 1 ft (30.5 cm) long. Most are transparent, but pale pinks, reds, violets, and oranges are also known in some species. Most ctenophores are also bioluminescent, the production of light originating in the walls of the eight canals. Most ctenostomes are hermaphrodites, developing through a cydippid larval stage to adults. They can also regenerate lost parts.

Class Tentaculata

Members of this class typically have two feathery tentacles that can be retracted into specialized sheaths. In some, there are smaller, secondary tentacles, and the primary tentacles are reduced. This class includes the small, oval sea gooseberries (genus Pleurobrachia), common on both Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The more flattened Mnemiopsis, about 4 in. long (10 cm), is common on the upper Atlantic coast. Known as a sea walnut, it has a large mouth and feeds mainly on larval mollusks and copepods. This species is brilliantly luminescent. The similar, but larger, genus Leucothea is abundant on the Pacific coast. Venus's girdle (genus Cestum) is a flattened, ribbonlike form reaching over 1 yd (91 cm) in length, and found in tropical waters.

Class Nuda

This class includes species that have no tentacles. Typical is the large-mouthed genus Beröe, which feeds on jellyfish and other ctenophores.

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Ctenophora

Ctenophora (‘comb jellies’) A small phylum of carnivorous, hermaphroditic, marine animals, in which the body is biradially symmetrical and can be divided into two hemispheres, and into equal sections by eight ciliated bands, the ‘combs’ from which the phylum derives its common name. The cilia provide locomotive power in most species, although some lobate species swim by contracting the lobes. In the class Tentaculata two long, branched tentacles, armed with colloblasts, emerge from a deep canal in the epidermis on the aboral side of the body and are used to catch prey. Members of the class Nuda lack tentacles. Many ctenophores are spherical or ovoid, and 1–5 cm in diameter, but some are conical, cylindrical, or strap-like and one species of the genus Cestum grows to more than 1 m in length. Ctenophores have no definitive fossil record, but their body plan is similar to that of a medusa and they are believed to be descended from a medusoid cnidarian. There are two classes (Tentaculata with four orders, and Nuda with one order) altogether comprising about 50 species, some of which occur in coastal waters throughout the world, and others of which are oceanic.

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Ctenophora

Ctenophora A phylum of marine invertebrates that contains the comb jellies (e.g. Pleurobrachia). Like the closely related Cnidaria they are coelenterates; they possess tentacles armed with lasso cells, for catching prey, and many hundreds of thousands of cilia, which are fused at their bases and grouped together into longitudinal rows (comb plates or ctenes). The beating of the cilia enables these animals to swim among the plankton.

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