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In biological anatomy, commonly referred to as the mouth, under formal names such as the oral cavity, buccal cavity, or in Latin cavum oris, is the opening through which many animals take in food and issue vocal sounds. It is also the cavity lying at the upper end of the alimentary canal, bounded on the outside by the lips and inside by the pharynx and containing in higher vertebrates the tongue and teeth. This cavity is also known as the buccal cavity, from the Latin bucca ("cheek").
Some animal phyla, including vertebrates, have a complete digestive system, with a mouth at one end and an anus at the other. Which end forms first in ontogeny is a criterion used to classify animals into protostome and deuterostome.
In the first multicellular animals there was probably no mouth or gut and food particles were engulfed by the cells on the exterior surface by a process known as endocytosis. The particles became enclosed in vacuoles into which enzymes were secreted and digestion took place intracellularly. The digestive products were absorbed into the cytoplasm and diffused into other cells. This form of digestion is used nowadays by simple organisms such as Amoeba and Paramecium and also by sponges which, despite their large size, have no mouth or gut and capture their food by endocytosis.
The vast majority of other multicellular organisms have a mouth and a gut, the lining of which is continuous with the epithelial cells on the surface of the body. A few animals which live parasitically originally had guts but have secondarily lost these structures. The original gut of multicellular organisms probably consisted of a simple sac with a single opening, the mouth. Many modern invertebrates have such a system, food being ingested through the mouth, partially broken down by enzymes secreted in the gut, and the resulting particles engulfed by the other cells in the gut lining. Indigestible waste is ejected through the mouth.
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