It is a marine water-dwelling acorn worm (Enteropneusta). Blanoglossus cannot survive in freshwater. It belongs to hemichordates. it is an “evolutionary link” between invertebrates and vertebrates.

  • Discovered by J.F. Eschscholtz in 1825 in Mashail Island. He described it as a worm-like holothurian. Kowalewski (1865) discovered the gill – slits in Blanoglossus, led to the creation of a special class Enteropneusta by Gegenbaur (1870).
  • Bateson (1885) included them in Phylum Chordata. Hyman (1959), however, placed them near Echinodermata and gave Hemichordata a status of an independent phylum.

Classification of  Balanoglossus:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Hemichordata
  • Class: Enteropneusta
  • Order: Enteropneusta
  • family: ptychoderidae
  • Genus: Blanoglossus

General characters of Balanoglossus:

It has a notochord in the upper part of the body and has no nerve chord. It possesses stomochord, (a gut chord within the collar) Term stomochord given by  Willy (1899) and Dawydoff 1948).

Habitat: Balanoglossus is a tuberculous or burrowing and exclusively marine animal. It is found in shallow waters between tide marks along the coast of warm and temperate oceans

Head: its head is small in between 5mm to 2.5mm

The body is divided into proboscis (protosome), collar (mesosome), and trunk (metasome)

  • The body cavity is enterocelous
  • Post anal tail is absent.

Digestive system: They possess a complete alimentary canal and digestive system.

Respiration: through gills and body surface.

  • The blood vascular system is open, or lacunar type, consisting of colourless blood.

Excretion: by single glomerulus gland, commonly known as proboscis gland.

Development: Both direct and indirect. (Tornaria larva in indirect development.)

  • Development: It consists mesoelecithal egg.
  • It undergoes holoblastic cleavage. Because of cleavage, it gives Morula, blastula stages. In the Blastula stage, a cavity is presently called Blastocoel.
  • The blastula is round in the beginning then it becomes flatIt undergoes invagination and gives a two-layered gastrula. This stage will show blastopore, which will slowly closer. This stage will develop cilia.
  • It will also develop apical tuft. It shows ectoderm and endoderm. It will develop
    enterococci coelom. At this stage, the ciliated embryo will be liberated into water. It elongatesand transforms into tornaria” larva

External features of Balanoglossus

Burrow style: Balanoglossus clavigerus is f-shaped excavated in a sandy bottom

Affinities with Annelids: Spengel (1893) suggested affinities of Balanoglossus with annelids.

Affinities with Echinodermata:

  • The affinities of Balanoglossus with echinoderms were first suggested by Metschinkoff (1865).
  • There are no similarities between adults of echinoderms and Balanoglossus except in the presence of the intraepidermal nervous system.
  • The similarities between tornaria larva and bipinnaria and other larval forms of echinoderms are as follows:
    • They are pelagic and transparent
    • The early development follows the same pattern.
    • The blastopore becomes the anus.
    • The coelom is enterocoelic as in pogonophores
    • The coelom when first formed is divided into three anteroposterior parts, the protocoel, mesocoel and metacoel in Balanoglossus and axocoel, hydrocoel and somatocoel in echinoderms. The hydrocoel opens to the exterior by pore as the protocoel and mesocoel do in Balanoglossus. The proboscis pore of Balanoglossus is compared with waterpore.
    • The heart vesicle of Balanoglossus is compared with the madreporic vesicle of echinoderm larvae. These structures are closely related to excretory structures, the glomerulus in Balanoglossus, and the axial gland in echinoderms.
    • The alimentary canal is divided into three parts, oesophagus, stomach, and intestine.
    • The resemblance in ciliated bands of these larval forms is regarded as a superficial character.

Affinities with Chordata: William Bateson was the first to advocate chordate affinities of Enteropneusta and include them into Phylum Chordata. They were supposed to possess the notochord, the gill-slits, and the dorsal tubular nerve cord which are three unique characters of the chordates.

Important objective questions related to Balanoglossus:

1. Balanoglossus belongs to the group:

a) Platyhelminthes

b) Annelida

c) Cephalochordata

d) Hemichordata

2. Balanoglossus is commonly known as:

(a) Snake worm

(b) Acorn worm

(c) Corn worm

(d) Earthworm

3.Larval form of Hemichordata


(b) Crinoidea

(c) Nauplius

(d) Caterpillar

4. Advanced chordates originated from:

(a) Amphioxus

(b) Tachoglossus

(c) Balanoglossus

(d) Starfish

5.Musculature in Balanoglossus is:

(a) Smooth

(b) Cardiac

(c) Striated

(d) Transverse

6.Coelom in Balanoglossus is:

(a) Scizocoel

(b) Entercoel

(c) Holocentric

(d) Metacentric

7. Balanoglossus is:

(a) Surface feeder

(b) Bottom feeder

(c) Column feeder

(d) Ciliary feeder

8. Which of the following is true for the blood vascular system of Balanoglossus?

(a) Closed

(b) Absence of central sinus

(c) Blood is colourless

(d) Arteries and veins are absent

9. Body in hemichordate is:

(a) Segmented

(b) Radially symmetrical

(c) Diploblastic

(d) Triploblastic

10. Fertilization in Hemichordata is:

(a) Internal

(b) External in freshwater

(c) External in seawater

(d) External in air

Answers: 1(d) 2 (b) 3 (a) 4(c) 5 (a) 6(b) 7 (d) 8 (c) 9(d) 10 (c)

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