Loricifera lôr˝ĭsĭf´ərə [key], phylum of microscopic animals discovered in 1974. They have spiny heads and unsegmented bodies encased in a vase-shaped anterior that can retract into the posterior trunk. Although research shows that the sexes are separate and they have a large brain, little else is known about them. Because they adhere tightly to the marine gravel or sand in which they live, they are difficult to extract. They hatch as a larval stage, undergo several molts, and reach adult stage. As with the Gnathustomulida , this may account for their late discovery. Locierans appear to be most closely related to the kinorhynchs ( Kinorhyncha ) and priapulids.

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