The Wonder of Deep Sea Echinoderms


Echinoderms come in countless shapes and sizes, but there are a few unique features that unite the 6,500 living species. Many adults of this phylum have 5-way radial symmetry; a pattern most prominent in the shape of the starfish. In addition, they have skeletons made up of interlocking calcium carbonate plates and spines called ossicles. This provides rigidity for their complex structures, making up the protective shell of urchins, or the column-like spine of crinoids. These skeletons are also the reason why fossils for echinoderms are so widespread and well-preserved, with some crinoid fossils being as old as 500 million years. Perhaps the most peculiar creatures of this phylum are the holothurians. Sea cucumbers, with their retractable feeding tentacles and tube feet around the mouth which they use to forage in the sea floor mud. 

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