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Regional specialisation takes place usually by three processes –
1) Restriction of certain structures to a few segments, for example, gonads are restricted to a few specialised genital segments in annelids (e.g. earthworm).
2) Structural divergence of segmental structures to perform different functions. For example some segmental appendages may be modified from those suitable for locomotion to those adapted for grasping or chewing, (e.g. insects)
3) Fusion of segments along the length of the animal. For example, fusion of anterior segments to form the head. The head of Nereis consists of the acron and two other segment while that of Drosophila is composed of five segments.
The second significant feature of metameric segmentation is its importance in the ' locomotion of soft bodied animals. The acoelomates animals use their musculature of longitudinal and circular muscles for locomotion but the evolution of a coelomic cavity has allowed the fluid to act as hydraulic skeleton. In invertebrates like annelids, muscles of the body wall act against this pressure. When circular muscles Contract, hydrostatic pressure on coelomic fluid will result in lengthening of the body; when longitudinal muscles contract, it will result in widening of the body. Since metameric segmentation results in compartmentalisation of the body, this elongation and widening of the body can be restricted to a few segments at a time.
This local change in the shape of the elongate body increases the locomotory efficiency. The broadened part of the body can be firmly fixed against the burrow especially if there are clinging structure such as setae and the lengthening of the body will produce considerable thrust resulting in progression of the animal. Thus the alternate peristaltic waves enable the animal to move forwards faster and efficiently.
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