viewThe word echinoderm means spiny skin. These are marine organisms with . five-fold radial symmetry, ... grooves. created by ossicles of the endoskeleton

Download viewThe word echinoderm means spiny skin. These are marine organisms with . five-fold radial symmetry, ... grooves. created by ossicles of the endoskeleton

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Phylum Echinodermata Starfish, Sea urchins and Sea cucumbers

Kingdom Animalia

Subkingdom Eumetazoa

Branch Bilateria


Phylum Echinodermata

Class Asteroidea

Class Ophiuroidea

Class Holothuroidea

Class Echinoidea

Class Crinoidea

Class Concentricycloidea

Echinoderms are radially symmetrical animals that are only found in the sea (there are none on land or in fresh water). Echinoderms mean "spiny skin" in Greek. Many, but not all, echinoderms have spiny skin. There are over 6,000 species. The echinoderms originated approximately 525 million years ago in the first 20 million years of the Cambrian known as the Cambrian explosion. Over 20,000 fossil species have been identified.

The word echinoderm means spiny skin. These are marine organisms with five-fold radial symmetry, commonly called starfish (Class Asteroidea), sand dollars and sea urchins (Class Echinoidea), sea cucumbers (Class Holothuroidea), and sea lilies (Class Crinoidea). They are coelomate.

Just under the skin, they have an endoskeleton that is made of calcium carbonate, the substance of corals and clam shells. The skeleton arises from mesodermal tissue, an origin unlike that of bivalve shells, which are secreted by the epidermal sheet of mantle tissue. If you look very closely at the skin of some echinoderms, like sea stars, you will notice that there are different types of growths on the surface. Some bumps are used to absorb oxygen, they are called dermal branchiae. Pedicellariae are pincher-like organs used to clean the surface of the skin. Since echinoderms are slow moving, these organs are there to prevent other animals like barnacles from landing on them and start growing.

Sexes are separate in echinoderms and fertilization is external; there is a larval stage with bilateral symmetry. As they mature, they become radially symmetrical. Radial symmetry means that the body is like a bub, like a bicycle wheel, and the arms (or tentacles) are spokes coming out of it. They possess a top down axis with the mouth on the side known as the oral surface and the anus on the side known as the aboral surface. The adaptation to radial symmetry was the result of their habitat on the sea floor.

A unique derived feature of the group is its water-vascular system in which seawater is pumped through a series of ducts to work the tube feet (or podia) and the suction cups at their tips. Tube feet are used by echinoderms for locomotion and prey capture. The tube feet and can be filled with sea water to extend them towards a substrate or prey. Muscles within the tube feet are used to extend or retract them. The water vascular system is used to classify animals as echinoderms. Water enters the water vascular system by way of a perforated plate known as the madreporite (in sea stars - on the aboral surface; in sea cucumbers its internal). The madreporite leads to a short stone canal which connects to a ring canal. Radial canals branch off the ring canal and travel into the arms. Numerous tube feet branch from each radial canal. In sea stars, these canals are located in ambulacral grooves created by ossicles of the endoskeleton. The grooves are visible internally and externally. In sea cucumbers, the radial canals are found along the body wall associated with retractor muscles. Only the very tip of the tube feet are seen outside the cucumber.

By moving sea water from the radial canals of the water vascular system into the tube feet, the echinoderm can make the tube foot move by expanding it. This is controlled by muscular contractions of the ampulla of the tube foot. Think of how a turkey baster can squirt liquid through the tube and you have the idea of how a tube foot works.

You can also find fluid outside the water vascular system. This fluid is the internal fluid of the echinoderm and is derived from the sea water you find in the water vascular system. It is found in the internal cavity of the echinoderm, known as the coelom. By circulating this internal fluid around within the coelom, the echinoderm can move respiratory gases, nutrients and wastes amongst its cells. Ciliated cells lining the inside of the echinoderm are responsible for this fluid movement.

Echinoderms are predators, suspension feeders and grazers. The mouth in the oral surface leads to a stomach. The first part of the stomach is large and is for storage of food. It is known as the cardiac stomach. The food eventually passes into the pyloric stomach. If the echinoderm is hunting prey, the stomach may be everted and used to introduce digestive enzymes into their prey. Connected to the pyloric stomach are tubular intestines that are found in groups of 5. Large, very obvious pyloric caeca attach to each intestine. These caeca facilitate digestion through the production of digestive enzymes (which go to the stomach) and by increasing the absorptive surface area for nutrients once they are digested by the enzymes. Absorbed nutrients then pass into the internal fluid in the coelom for distribution. Undigested materials pass out through the anus (if it is a functional anus). If the anus is non-function, the food passes out through the mouth.

Echinoderms are known as deuterostome animals (along with chordates), in which the blastopore becomes the anus and the mouth opens elsewhere. Deuterostomes have radial cleavage and their embryonic cells are indeterminate. Deuterostomes are enterocoels, their coelom forms as out-pockets along the gut.

Lab Materials

Models sea star

Prepared slide starfish development

Demo slide starfish late bipinnaria

Dissection sea stars & sea cucumbers

Preserved samples sea urchin


-sea cucumbers

Echinoderm dry mount

Class Asteroidea the Sea Stars

Sea stars (group name Stelleroidea) are sometimes called starfish, though they are not real fish (they lack both vertebrae and fins). There are two sub-types of sea stars:

Asteroideas are the true sea stars and sun stars.

Ophiuroideas are brittle stars and basket stars.

The differences between the two sub-types lies in how the arms connect to the central disk. Ophiuroids have arms that do not connect with each other. There is a distinct boundary between arm and central disk. Asteroids have arms that are connected to each other. Also, it is harder to tell with asteroids where the central disk ends and the arms begin.

Each ray (or arm) of a sea star has a light sensitive organ called an eyespot. Using their eyespots, the sea star can detect light and its general direction.

Starfish Dissection

Materials: Preserved starfish, dissecting pan, scissors, scalpel, forceps, T-pins, pencil, lab apron, safety glasses

Procedure (Aboral Surface):

1. Obtain a preserved starfish and rinse off any preservative with water.

2. Place the starfish in the dissecting pan with its dorsal or aboral (top) surface upward.

3. Observe the starfish and determine its symmetry.

4. Locate the central disc in the center of the starfish. Count and record the number of arms or rays the starfish has.

5. Locate the small, round hard plate called the madreporite on top of the central disc. Water enters through this into the water vascular system.

6. Feel the upper surface of the starfish for spines. These spines protect the starfish and are part of their internal skeleton.

7. Look at the tip of each arm and find the eyespot. Though it cannot see nearly as well as we do, the eyespot of sea stars can detect light and its general direction. They have some idea of where they are going.

Procedure (Oral Surface):

7. Turn the starfish over to its ventral or oral surface (underside).

8. Locate the mouth in the center of the central disc. Find the ring of oral spines surrounding the mouth.

9. Find the groove that extends down the underside of each arm. This is called the ambulacral groove.

10. Feel the numerous, soft tube feet inside each groove. These are part of the water vascular system & aid in movement and feeding.

Procedure (Internal anatomy):

11. With the starfish's aboral surface facing you, cut off the tip of a ray. Cut along lines a, b, and c (Figure 1) and then remove this flap of skin.

Figure 1 - Cuts in Arm

12. Inside each arm, locate two long digestive glands called the pyloric caeca. These make enzymes to digest food in the stomach.

13. Cut a circular flap of skin from the central disc. (You will have to also cut around the madreporite in order to remove this flap.) Observe the stomach under the central disc.

14. Remove the pyloric caeca from the dissected ray. Find the gonads (testes or ovaries) underneath. These may be small if the starfish is NOT in breeding season. Remove these to see the rest of the water vascular system.

15. Cut off the tip of a ray to observe the parts of the tube feet. Find the zipper-like ridge that extends the length of the ray. The tube feet are attached to these.

16. Locate the bulb-like top of a tube foot called the ampulla. This sac works like the top of an eyedropper to create suction. The bottom of the tube foot is a sucker.

17. Embedded in the soft body wall are skeletal plates called ossicles. Locate these

18. Running down the center of each arm is a radial or lateral canal to which tube feet are attached. Label this in Figure 2.

19. In the central disc the five lateral canals connect to a circular canal called the ring canal. Find this canal & label it on figure 2.

20. A short, canal called the stone canal leads from the ring canal to the madreporite where water enters.