A polyp in zoology is one of two forms found in the phylum Cnidaria, the other being the medusa. Polyps are approximately cylindrical in shape and elongated at the axis of the body. In solitary polyps, the aboral end is attached to the substrate by means of a disc-like holdfast called the pedal disc, while in colonies of polyps it is connected to other polyps, either directly or indirectly. The oral end contains the mouth, and is surrounded by a circlet of tentacles.
In the class Anthozoa, comprising the sea anemones and corals, the individual is always a polyp; in the class Hydrozoa, however, the individual may be either a polyp or a medusa, with most species undergoing a life cycle with both a polyp stage and a medusa stage. In class Scyphozoa, the medusa stage is dominant, and the polyp stage may or may not be present, depending on the family. In those scyphozoans that have the larval planula metamorphose into a polyp, the polyp, also called a "scyphistoma," grows until it develops a stack of plate-like medusae that pinch off and swim away in a process known as strobilation. Once strobilation is complete, the polyp may die, or regenerate itself to repeat the process again later. With Cubozoans, the planula settles onto a suitable surface, and develops into a polyp. The cubozoan polyp then eventually metamorphoses directly into a medusa.
The body of the polyp may be roughly compared in a structure to a sac, the wall of which is composed of two layers of cells. The outer layer is known technically as the ectoderm, the inner layer as the endoderm (or gastroderm). Between ectoderm and endoderm is a supporting layer of structureless gelatinous substance termed mesogloea, secreted by the cell layers of the body wall. The mesogloea may be a very thin layer, or may reach a fair thickness, and then sometimes contains skeletal elements formed by cells which have migrated into it from the ectoderm.
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