larva, independent, immature animal that undergoes a profound change, or metamorphosis, to assume the typical adult form. Larvae occur in almost all of the animal phyla; because most are tiny or microscopic, they are rarely seen. They play diverse roles in the lives of animals. Motile larvae help to disseminate sessile, or sedentary, animals such as sponges, oysters, barnacles, or scale insects. Larvae of parasites may be dispersed by penetrating the skin of new hosts; other parasite larvae live in intermediate hosts that are normally eaten by the final host, in which the adult parasites develop. The larvae of other parasites live in and are dispersed by intermediate hosts such as mosquitoes, gnats, or leeches; when the blood meals are taken from the final host, the parasite larvae are introduced into the blood or skin. Parasitic infections can often be reduced by eliminating the larval hosts.
Sections in this article:
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Zoology: Invertebrates