The name describes them perfectly. Flatworms, which consist of approximately 3,000 species, are small and flat. Although they are tiny, they hunt continuously. Their prey is the smaller species in their aquatic environment. Flatworms serve an important role in the marine ecosystem.
Flatworms feed primarily on protozoa and bacteria, smaller worms and any tiny animals, dead or alive, that they encounter. Depending on the species, flatworms also consume plant materials, such as algae. Young flatworms might eat plants, but start feeding on animal matter as they mature. Adult flatworms can eat snails and immature bivalves, including clams and mollusks. Their flat bodies allow them to slip into the shells.
These simple creatures locate their equally simple prey via sensors at the front of their bodies, along with minute antennae-like projections. Flatworms wrap their bodies around potential prey, using their mouths to force digestive enzymes onto the victim. They then either suck fluids out of the prey, or swallow them. Depending on the size of the prey, flatworms eat them in pieces or swallow them whole.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.