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What are some facts about tapeworms?

A:

Quick Answer

Tapeworms are invertebrates that belong to the class Cestoda and the phylum Platyhelminthes. There are well over 1,000 species of tapeworm. They're found around the world and are parasites.

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Full Answer

Tapeworms can be less than 1 millimeter thick but can grow as long as 100 feet. They live in the intestines of vertebrates as adults and absorb the food they find there. Since they don't have digestive systems, their food is absorbed directly through the body wall.

The tapeworm's head is called the scolex. It has hooks and suckers that allow the worm to fasten onto the host's intestines. The tapeworm's body is made up of segments called proglottids. Each of these proglottids has an entire reproductive system that can hold thousands of eggs. As the tapeworm ages, the proglottids start to break away. They and their eggs are then ejected from the body in the host's feces. If another animal ingests these infected feces, the tapeworm's life cycle begins anew. However, the dwarf tapeworm doesn't need a secondary host and the eggs can mature inside the primary host.

Often, tapeworm infestation has no symptoms or symptoms that are vague. Little or no harm is done to the host animal. However, sometimes the host can suffer nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

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