Phylum Echinodermata. General Characteristics They live only in the sea. They are characterized by spiny skin, an internal skeleton, a water vascular.
Post on 17-Dec-2015
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- Phylum Echinodermata
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- General Characteristics They live only in the sea. They are characterized by spiny skin, an internal skeleton, a water vascular system, and suction cup like structures called tube feet. The skin of echinoderms is stretched over an internal skeleton or endoskeleton. The endoskeleton is formed of hardened plates of calcium carbonate. They exhibit five part radial symmetry (biradial)
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- Characteristics They are characterized by radial symmetry, several arms radiating from a central body (= pentamerous). The body actually consists of five equal segments, each containing a duplicate set of various internal organs. They have no heart, brain, nor eyes, but some have light sensitive parts on their arms. Their mouth is situated on the underside and their anus on top (except feather stars, sea cucumbers and some urchins).
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- Water vascular system Echinoderms have tentacle-like structures called tube feet with suction pads situated at their extremities. These tube feet are controlled by a water vascular system. This system supplies water through canals of small muscular tubes to the tube feet (= ambulacral feet). As the tube feet press against a moving object, water is withdrawn from them, resulting in a suction effect. When water returns to the canals, suction is released. The resulting locomotion is generally very slow.
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- Habitat Echinoderms are exclusively marine. They occur in various habitats from the intertidal zone down to the bottom of the deep sea trenches and from sand to rubble to coral reefs and in cold and tropical seas.
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- Eating habits Some echinoderms are carnivorous (for example starfish) others are detritus foragers (for example some sea cucumbers) or planktonic feeders (for example basket stars).
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- Feather stars They are characterized by radial symmetry. The body of a typical feather star is cup-shaped, their numerous feathery arms project from a central disc. Some have five arms, others as many as 200. The arms, called pinnules are coated with a sticky substance that helps to catch food. Both their mouth and their anus are situated on the upper side.
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- Feather stars Primarily nocturnal, they are usually attached to corals and do not move much. They feed on plankton and thus are found in areas with strong currents.
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- Brittle stars Brittle stars are close relatives of sea stars. Characterized by radial symmetry with a central body from which five snakelike arms protrude. The arms are highly flexible. Compared to starfish, brittle stars have a much smaller central disc and no anus. Wastes are eliminated through the mouth which is situated on the underside center.
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- Characteristics continued.. Brittle stars are very cryptic and hide in crevices under corals. Best seen at night time, when they emerge to feed on plankton If the arms are grabbed they easily break off. This is an escape mechanism.
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- Sea Urchins Radial symmetrical body with a external chitinous skeleton and a centrally located jaw (called Aristotle's lantern) with spiked teeth. The mouth consists of a complex arrangement of muscles and plates surrounding the circular opening.
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- Characteristics continued. They have movable spines of various sizes and forms are attached to the body. These spines often are sharp, pointed and in some cases even venomous. Pincer like pedicellaria for grabbing small prey. Some pedicellaria are also poisonous.
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- Locomotion by tube feet but also by movement of the spines on the underside of the body. Sea urchins are generally nocturnal, during the day they hide in crevices. Most sea urchins are algal grazers but some feed on sponges, bryozonans and ascidians and others on detritus (detritus = organically enriched film that covers rocks).
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- Sea Cucumbers Unlike other echinoderms, holothurians don't have a distinct radial symmetry but are bilateral (distinct dorsal and ventral side) As their name suggests, they are cucumber shaped with an elongated, muscular, flexible body with a mouth at one end and the anus at the other. Around the mouth there is a number of tentacles (modified tube feet) used in food collecting. They can be up to 2 meters long.
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- Most species feed on the rich organic film coating sandy surfaces. The crawl over the bottom ingesting sand. The edible particles (organic matter such as plankton, foraminifera and bacteria) are extracted when passing through their digestive tract and the processed sand is expelled from the anus (as worm-like excrements).
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- Sea cucumbers have a remarkable capacity for regenerating their body parts. When attacked they shed a sticky thread like structure which is actually parts of their guts. The so called Cuverian threads are toxic (the poison is called holothurin) and can dissuade many potential predators. These structures quickly regenerate.
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