|Extant and extinct echinoderms of six classes: Fromia indica (Asteroidea); Ophiocoma scolopendrina (Ophiuroidea); Stomopneustes variolaris (Echinoidea); Oxycomanthus bennetti (Crinoidea); Actinopyga echinites (Holothuroidea); Ctenocystoidea.|
Bruguière, 1791 [ex Klein, 1734]
|Subphyla and classes|
Homalozoa † Gill & Caster, 1960
An echinoderm (/ -/,) is any member of the phylum Echinodermata (//). The adults are recognisable by their (usually five-point) radial symmetry, and include starfish, brittle stars, sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers, as well as the sea lilies or "stone lilies". Adult echinoderms are found on the sea bed at every ocean depth, from the intertidal zone to the abyssal zone. The phylum contains about 7,000 living species, making it the second-largest grouping of deuterostomes, after the chordates. Echinoderms are the largest entirely marine phylum. The first definitive echinoderms appeared near the start of the Cambrian.
The echinoderms are important both ecologically and geologically. Ecologically, there are few other groupings so abundant in the biotic desert of the deep sea, as well as shallower oceans. Most echinoderms are able to reproduce asexually and regenerate tissue, organs, and limbs; in some cases, they can undergo complete regeneration from a single limb. Geologically, the value of echinoderms is in their ossified skeletons, which are major contributors to many limestone formations, and can provide valuable clues as to the geological environment. They were the most used species in regenerative research in the 19th and 20th centuries. Further, some scientists hold that the radiation of echinoderms was responsible for the Mesozoic Marine Revolution.
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