Vermes

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Vermes ("worms") is an obsolete taxon used by Carolus Linnaeus and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck for all non-arthropod invertebrate animals. In Linnaeus system the group had the rank of class, occupying the 6th (and last) slot of his animal systematics. The class was divided into the following orders:[1]

  • Intestina
  • Mollusca
  • Testacea
  • Lithophyta
  • Zoophyta

Apart from the Mollusca (molluscs), Linnaeus included a very diverse and rather mismatched assemblage of animals in the categories. The Intestina group encompassed various parasitic animals, among them the hagfish, which Linnaeus would have found in dead fish. Shelled molluscs were placed in the Testacea, together with barnacles and tube worms. Cnidarians (jellyfish and corals), echinoderms and polychaetes were spread across the other orders. After Linnaeus, and especially with the advent of Darwinism, it became apparent that a lot of the Vermes-animals are not at all closely related. Historically, systematic works on phylum-level taxa since Linnaeus have largely been about splitting up Vermes and sorting the animals into natural systematic units -- a work that still goes on today.

Of the classes of Vermes proposed by Linnaeus, only Mollusca (the molluscs) has been kept as a phylum, and its composition has changed almost entirely. Though we today may view Linnaeus's early classification of the soft-bodied organisms as rather primitive, it was revolutionary in its day. A number of the organisms classified as Vermes by Linnaeus were very poorly known, and a number of them were not even viewed as animals.

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