Chaetognatha (kētôgnăthˈə) [key], phylum of predominantly pelagic marine animals commonly known as arrowworms. Arrowworms have slender, transparent bodies, usually under 1 in. (2.5 cm) long. Lateral and caudal fins propel the animal in sudden darting movements. The well-developed head bears eyes and other sense organs, grasping spines used in the capture of prey, and rows of teeth flanking the mouth. A protective hood can be folded down over the bristles and teeth. The digestive system includes a glandular pharynx, a straight intestine, and a short, muscular rectum. The nervous system centers in a bilobed, dorsal brain and several other nerve ganglia. Although widely distributed, arrowworms prefer warm, shallow seas and are particularly plentiful in the Indo-Pacific region. They are voracious predators; some feed on freshly hatched fish nearly as large as themselves. They are influential planktonic consumers when abundant.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.