Difference between Nephridia and Malpighian Tubules

Excretion is the process of elimination of metabolic wastes from the body. However, the mode and organ of excretion differ from animal to animal. While humans have kidneys for excretion, insects have malpighian tubules and worms have nephridia.

Explore the differences between nephridia and malpighian tubules in the table below.


Nephridia (sing.: nephridium) is the unit of the excretory system in invertebrates. They are almost equivalent to kidneys in vertebrates. They always occur in pairs. There are two kinds of nephridia: protonephridia and metanephridia.

The protonephridia are found in lower primitive invertebrates such as ribbon worms and flatworms. Metanephridia is found in higher invertebrates such as earthworms.

Protonephridia are tubules that lack internal openings. The end cells are either ciliated or flagellated. The ciliated cells are called flame cells, and the flagellated cells are called solenocytes. The tube opens into these cells, where the filtered urine is finally excreted.

Metanephridium lacks flame cells but opens directly into the body cavity. The tubule is ciliated to absorb the nutrients, and finally, the urine is passed for excretion.

Malpighian Tubules

Malpighian tubules are excretory systems found in insects. They are located in the abdominal body cavity and drain between the midgut and hindgut. They excrete in the form of uric acids. There are tubules branched throughout the alimentary canal that absorb ions, water and solutes from the surrounding haemolymph.

Nephridia vs Malpighian Tubules


Malpighian Tubules


The unit of excretion found in invertebrates.

Malpighian tubules are organs of excretion found in insects.

Form of excretion

Uric acid, ammonia or urea

Urine or uric acid


It consists of flame cells and solenocytes.

It consists of tubules branched throughout the alimentary canal.

Found in


Insects and arthropods.

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Frequently Asked Questions


What is the difference between protonephridia and metanephridia?

Protonephridia is found in primitive invertebrates such as flatworms and consists of flame cells. On the other hand, metanephridia are found in higher invertebrates, such as earthworms, and they lack flame cells.


What is the excretory organ of crustaceans?

Crustaceans and other sea animals have two excretory organs, the antennal gland and the maxillary gland.


In which phylum are Malpighian tubules found?

The Malpighian tubules are found in the phylum Arthropoda.


What is the excretory system of Platyhelminthes?

The excretory system of Platyhelminthes is protonephridia.


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