(Gk. echinos = spines; derma = skin/covering)
Brief History : Although Jacob Klein (1738) had earlier coined the name “Echinodermata”, yet Linnaeus included these animals under “Mollusca”, and Lamarck under his class “Radiata” as “Echinodermes”. Finally, Leuckart (1847) raised the group to the status of a separate phylum.
(1) Echinoderms are exclusively marine beings.
(2) They are triplobalstic and coelomate (enterocoetomate) animals.
(3) They have radially symmetrical body. The radial symmetry is due to sedentary or sessile mode of life and it is a secondary character in echinoderms.
(4) They have organ system grade of organization.
(5) They have well developed endoskeleton formed of calcareous ossicles and spines.
(6) They have a water–vascular system (Ambulacral system) with tube–feet for locomotion, feeding and respiration.
(7) Circulatory system is of the open–type.
(8) Respiratory organs include dermal branchiae, tube feet, respiratory tree and bursae.
(9) Nervous system is complex and contains both central and peripheral components, but no brain.
(10) The sensory organs are poorly developed.
(11) The excretory organs are absent.
(12) They have pedicellariae.
(13) Development is indirect.
(14) The larval forms are bilaterally symmetrical.
(15) Regeneration power is well developed in Echinoderms.
Classification of Echinodermata : On the basis of body shape, position of madreporite and kind of larval form, echinoderms are classified into two subphylum.
Subphylum (I) Eleutherozoa : Free-living echinoderms with ventral mouth.
Class 1. Asteroidea
(1) Starfishes or sea stars.
(2) Arms 5 or more and not sharply marked off from the central disc.
(3) Tube feet in orally placed ambulacral grooves; with suckers.
(4) Anus and madreporite aboral.
(5) Pedicellariae present.
(6) Free-living, slow-creeping, predaceous and scavengerous.
Examples : Astropecten, Luidia, Goniaster, Oreaster (= Pentaceros), Asterina, Solaster, Pteraster, Echinaster, Asterias, Heliaster, etc.
Class 2. Ophiuroidea
(1) Brittle-stars and allies.
(2) Body star-like with arms sharply marked off from the central disc.
(3) Pedicellariae absent.
(4) Stomach sac-like; no anus.
(5) Ambulacral grooves absent or covered by ossicles; tube feet without suckers.
(6) Madreporite oral.
Examples : Ophiura, Ophiothrix, Ophioderma, Ophiopholis, Gorgonocephalus, Asteronyx.
Class 3. Echinoidea
(1) Body not divided into arms; globular (sea urchins), or flattened disc-like (sea-cakes).
(2) Mouth at lower pole, covered by 5 strong and sharp teeth, forming a biting and chewing apparatus called “Aristotle's Lantern”.
(3) Tube-feet slender with suckers.
(4) Skin ossicles fused to form a rigid globular, disc like, or heart-shaped shell or test with movable spines.
(5) 3–jawed pedicellariae present in skin.
(6) Gut long, slenderical and coiled. Anus present.
(7) Larval forms pluteus and Echinopluteus.
Examples : Echinus, Clypeaster, Echinarachinus, Echinocardium, etc.
- Members of Echinoidea are also known as Floating stone.
Class 4. Holothuroidea
(1) Body massive, long and cylindrical like a cucumber; elongated in oral–aboral axis; no arms.
(2) Mouth at anterior and anus at posterior ends.
(3) Mouth surrounded by many hollow retractile tentacles.
(4) Tube feet usually present; sucker-like.
(5) Skin more...