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End portion of the alimentary canal, distinguished from the rectum by the transition from an internal mucous membrane layer to one of skinlike tissue and by its narrower diameter. Waste products move from the rectum to the anal canal. The human anal canal is 1–1.5 in. (2.5–4 cm) long and has three parts: upper, with longitudinal folds (rectal columns); lower, with involuntary and voluntary constrictive muscles (sphincters) to control discharge of feces; and the anal opening itself. Enlargements of the ends of rectal and anal veins are called hemorrhoids.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on anal canal, visit Britannica.com.