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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Lancelet Branchiostoma lanceolatum

Looking like a thin, semitransparent, elongate leaf, the lancelet is difficult to spot in the coarse sediments in which it lives. It usually lies half-buried in the sand with its head end sticking out. Muscle blocks that run along both sides of its body show through the skin as a pattern of V-shaped stripes. At the head end, a delicate hood ringed by stiff tentacles overhangs the mouth. This feature filters out large sediment particles but allows smaller, organic particles to pass so that they can be ingested.

Lanceletzoom image
  • Subphylum Cephalochordata
  • Length Up to 2 in (6 cm)
  • Depth Shore and shallows
  • Habitat Coarse sand
  • Distribution Coastal temperate waters of northeastern Atlantic, and Mediterranean
Lancelet habitat mapzoom image