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The Cycliophora are a new phylum, based on a single genus Symbion. They are so different from other animals that they were put in their own phylum. They were discovered in 1995, and are the most recent new phylum.[1] So far, three species have been found.

They live on the bodies of cold-water lobsters. They are microscopic: the feeding stage is about 0.3 mm long, and 0.1 mm wide.[2]

Their life style is commensal, (a form of symbiosis) – they feed on the leftovers from the lobster's own meals.[3]

Life stages

They have three different body forms, and a two-stage life-cycle.[4]

  • Asexual Feeding Stage – at this stage, the tiny animal is neither male or female. On the posterior end of the sac-like body is a stalk with an adhesive disc, which attaches itself to the host. On the anterior end is a ciliated funnel (mouth) and an anus.
  • Sexual Stage – these are even smaller than the feeding stage.
    • Male – Has no mouth or anus, which shows the absence of a digestive system. It also has two reproductive organs.
    • Female – Has a digestive system which collapses and reconstitutes itself as a larva.[1]


Symbion can reproduce both asexually by budding and sexually. In sexual reproduction the male attaches to a feeding stage and impregnates a budding female. The female then separates from the feeding stage and attaches herself to another host, where the larva in her develops. The female dies, and the larva escapes.

The sexual reproductive cycle is triggered when the host crustacean moults its 'shell' (exoskeleton) in order to grow.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 P. Funch & R.M. Kristensen (1995). "Cycliophora is a new phylum with affinities to Entoprocta and Ectoprocta". Nature 378 (6558): 711–714. doi:10.1038/378711a0 .
  2. Cycliophora. [1]
  3. P. Funch, P. Thor & M. Obst (2008). "Symbiotic relations and feeding biology of Symbion pandora (Cycliophora) and Triticella flava (Bryozoa)". Vie et Milieu 58: 185–188.
  4. Neves RC, Kristensen RM, Wanninger A (March 2009). "Three-dimensional reconstruction of the musculature of various life cycle stages of the cycliophoran Symbion americanus". J. Morphol. 270 (3): 257–70. doi:10.1002/jmor.10681 . PMID 18937332 .
  5. Piper, Ross 2007. Extraordinary animals: an encyclopedia of curious and unusual animals. Greenwood Press.