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Greek.echin = hedgehog + derma = skin)
Echinodermata includes the starfish, sea urchins, brittle stars, sea cucumbers and feather stars.
Just like the name says they have spines or spicules on their skins to a varying degree in the
different groups. The usually have a radial symmetry with no anterior or posterior, but radiating
out from a central point. Radial symmetry is present only in the adult form (larvae bilateral).
They reproduce sexually and most of the species release eggs and sperm into the water where the
fertilization then occurs. The huge number of gametes produced compensates for the
wastefulness of this type of fertilization. The larvae are attractive, planktonic creatures that are
transparent and has long slender arms.


1. Symmetry is usually radial in adults, bilateral in larvae. Triploblastic. Most of the organs are
ciliated. No segmentation.

2. Body surface of five symmetrical radiating areas, or ambularca, from which the tube feet

3. Body covered by a delicate epidermis over a firm mesodermal endoskeleton of moveable or
fixed calcareous plates, usually in a definite pattern. Often with spines (skin leathery and plates
usually microscopic in Holothuroidea).

4. No head. The body is arranged on a oral, aboral axis.

5. The Coelom is enterocoelous, large and lineated with ciliated peritoneum and subdivided
during development to give rise to the unique water-vascular system. They poses tubular feet for
motion, food handling and respiration. A complex hemal system present.

6. Respiration by minute dermal branchiae (skin gills) or papulae protruding from the coelom by
tube feet and in Holothuroidea by coral respiratory trees.

7. The nervous system is diffuse and composed typically of three rings centered on the mouth
region with radiating branches.

8. The sexes are seperate, with rare exceptions, and all are alike externally. The gonads are large
with simple ducts. Eggs are abundant and are usually fertilized in the sea. The larvae are
bilateral, microscopic, ciliated, transparent and usually free swimming, with conspicuous

9. No excretory system is present.

. The mouth is located on the central part of the under surface of the body and the anus in turn is located on top. tapering arms. They are identified by their flattened bodies which merge into five gradually into five (somtimes more) thick and fleshy. If one of these arms were to break of the animal would quite simply grow a new one and the lost arm will simply grow itself a new animal. Asteroidea viewed form above while in different stages of disection. ASTEROIDEA Starfish The starfish are probably the most familiar echinoderms.

A groove. Some starfish are dotted with tiny pedicellaria. A small area on the dorsal surface enlarged. usually equiped with venom glands and serve to protect the animal against predators. These structures are three-jawed. . that runs from the mouth along the underside of each arm. resemling grappling irons. These tubefeet are responsiple for the creeping movements of the starfish.Oral surface of disc. protects rows of tiny hydraulically-opperated tubefeet with suckered tips. Each one of the arms contain their own respiratory. digestive and reproductive organs.

CRINOIDEA Feather stars These are elegant echinoderms with small. but many are predators. that each comprise of a central axis and then numerous side branches(pinnules). soft bodies that are surrounded by 10 or more elongate and upwardly raised arms. . Among those that are predators some species prevent the mussels from a monopoly of the shores and some also attack corals. Some species are scavengers.Interior view of a part of an ambulical ridge. Some species of Astroidea feed on detritus or microalgae.

.A stalked feather star. The oral surface of a feather star.

They poses a ring of claw-like segmented limbs (the cirri) beneath the body with which they grip to the substratum. The gonads are situated in the pinnules closest to the body and they swell greatly in size during the breeding season. They move by the snake-like undulation of their legs. Most of the body cavity is filled by a plain U- shaped gut that ends in an cone in close vicinity to the mouth. The segments of the arms are each covered by 1 . Attached stalked crinoids (sea lilies) are abundant in the fossil record but very few species survive today. The mouth is situated at the lower surface and is surrounded by five toothed jaws.3 plates (their number and shape help with the identification). Oral view of the disk of a brittle star. hence the name "Brittlestars". and ultimately tearing and releasing the sperm or eggs into the water. Those with grannules 2. but they have the abillity to crawl or even swim with the use of their arms. circular body (disc) with five or more long thin arms that perform snakelike movements. OPHIUROIDEA Brittlestars Brittle stars consist of a flat. These arms break of extremely easyly.Those with a leathery or scaley texture Just above the beginning of each arm there are usually two enlarged scales (radial shields). The texture of the disc allows division of the brittlestars into 3 groups: 1.Those with short spines 3. . The Crinoids are essentially sedentary. The sides of the arms are often spiny.Food particals are then captured by the arms and are passed along ciliated grooves back to the mouth (situated on the upper surface).

Through tiny pores in . A brittle star on the surface of a sponge. The test is formed by the fusion of the spines in the skin. Most of the species are detritus feeders. Most of the brittle stars have minute planktonic larvae. with the anus ussually on the upper side.Diagramatic cross section through the arm of a brittle star. The mouth occurs centrally on the underside. ECHINOIDEA Sea urchins Most of these creatures have a globular body that is encased in a hard calcium carbonate shell (the test). but a few brood their young in their bodies and give birth to extremely small copies of themselves.

. tube feet protrude (five double rows of tube feet run from the apex down the sides of the test) and serve for movement for the sea urchin. Long protective spines project from the test. the test. Internal structure of the sea urchin Arbacia (lateral view).

Aboral view of the Common Atlantic sea urchin (Arbachia Punctilata). .

They can penetrate very deeply and then break of. . usually equiped with venom glands and serve to protect the animal against predators. In most of the cases the spines are harmless to humans. They are mounted on a ball-and-socket and can be swiveled to face any threat directly. creating holes in which they shelter. In the topics where there are more predatory fish. but if stung by one it can be irritating. A few species have long lance-like spines with backwards pointing serrations. resemling grappling irons. Some are even able to burrow into the rock.Some of these longspined urchins discharge poisons through the tips of their broken arrows. Some sea urchins are dotted with tiny pedicellaria. most of the urchins shelter in crevices and feast upon drift-weed. These structures are three-jawed. and the more mobile species control the growth of the seaweed population.Diagramatic cross section through the body wall of a sea urchin. Most Urchins are grazers (the flattened sand-dwelling species feed on detritus).

Their sticky tentacles are used to gather detritus or to catch plankton that floats overhead. with the anus on the other. They have also become a lot more flexible with their spines being reduced to microscopic spicules. Up to five rows of tube feet that run along the side is the only reminder of their ancesteral radial symmetry. A mouth that is surrounded by 10-20 retractable feeding tentacles is situated on one end.The Hawaiian slate pencil urchin (hetrocentrotus mammilatus). HOLOTHUROIDEA Sea cucumbers The cucumbers have traded in their starshaped. ‘ . The purple sea urchin (strongylocentrotus purpurates). for a elongate sausage-shaped body with a leathery skin that lies on its side. radial symmetry and skeletal structure. common to other echinoderms.

A North-Atlantic sea cucumber (cucmaria frondosa). .

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In press. Smith. A. Clarendon Press. Oxford. Olsen.B. B. Parsley. Smith. Echinoderm phylogeny and the place of the concentricyloids. 1984. eds. G. Rowe. Evol. J. 1993. and J. Lane. Wada.P. Smith. Sumrall. Clark. Ghiselin. Parks. Lambert.Pearse. Pace. Clarendon Press. Mladenov. Balkema. V.W.). David. Balkema. Pages 29-41 in Echinoderm Phylogeny and Evolutionary Biology (C. and J. M. Rotterdam. To group or not to group: taxonomic position of Xyloplax. eds.T. and N.C. Arndt. A.-P. The phylogeny of echinoderm classes based on mitochondrial gene rearrangements. Paul and A. eds.R. H. Féral.R. and E. eds. L.B. Mol. A. P. Phil. Raff. Phylogenetic relationships among extant classes of echinoderms.).E. 1997. B 233: 431-459. R.S. 38:41-49. Balkema.L.B. Lond. D.C. Pages 85-97 in Echinoderm Phylogeny and Evolutionary Biology (C..).B. Oxford.E. Fossil evidence for the relationship of extant echinoderm classes and their times of divergence. Molecular analysis of distant phylogenetic relationships in echinoderms. . 1988. 1994. A. 1988a. Sprinkle. Guille.). Rotterdam. 1988.J. Rotterdam.Baker. Parr. Fajber. F. D.B.A. Mol.N. J. Phylogenetic analysis of living Echinodermata based on primitive fossil taxa. 1994. eds. Pages 121-126 in Echinoderms through Time (B. 1988b. Trans. R.S. Roux.R.C. A. and H. Smith. A. Soc. Smith. A. Raff. N. Telford. Pearse. V.B. Rowe and Clark 1986 (Echinodermata:Concentricycloidea). as inferred from sequences of 18S RNA. and M. with the description of a new species. K. development and taxonomic status of Xyloplax Baker.. Satoh. C. In Echinoderms: San Francisco (R. Evol. 36:545-554. Paleontology 27:431-459. J. Gorski. P. Field.J. The morphology. Pages 17-23 in Proceedings of the 6th International Echinoderm Conference (R. coincide with relationships deduced from the fossil record..G. M. Burke. S.. Paul and A. Classification of the Echinodermata. Smith. R.. and E.J.). Mooi and M.

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