Ten Hefty Facts About Echinoderms

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1. Echinoderms are invertebrates.

  • Members of phylum Echinodermata which came from the Greek word “spiny skin”.
  • There are about 7000 species of these fascinating wonders of the sea.
  • Starfish, brittle stars, sea lilies, sea urchins and sea cucumbers are example of echinoderms.

2. Echinoderms possess specialized structure to protect themselves.

  • Like humans, echinoderms’ epidermis also acts as its first line of defense against potential threat.
  • There are three parts of the echinoderms’ lateral grooves namely the ampulla podia and sucker.
  • Its ossicles, that makes up their skeletal system is embedded on the outer layer.
  • Some echinoderms have their toxic spines like pincer-like structures that serve as its defense mechanism.
  • Adult echinoderms have distinct radial (or bi-radial in larval forms) symmetrical body divided into multiple sections with hundreds of little sucker-like tube feet (or tentacles) under its arms which all comes with set of organs and a mouth at the center.
  • They are also able to undergo camouflage to keep away from predators

3. Echinoderms are capable of regeneration.

  • They have the remarkable power to re-grow lost body parts, amazingly even internal organs.
  • Most reproduce sexually where eggs and sperm are laid and fertilized to produce planktonic larvae.

4. Echinoderms use water as their blood.

  • It serves as the vascular system for oxygenation of its body and vital organs.
  • Water is drawn into its feet which enable them to expand its body to move, feed on substrates, attach to surfaces and grasp to its prey.
  • Pumps water through madreporite (serves as a sieve plate) to filter and fill its arms/feet with water.
  • They have simple gills (located in its tube feet) intended for respiration.

5. Echinoderms are predators, scavengers and feeders.

  • Their favorite prey is shellfish (bivalve) such as oyster or clams (they don’t actually eat the shell but what is inside), algae and non-insect anthropods.
  • Its suction capacity is quite strong that it can manage to open the shell while outstretching its arms/feet.
  • They have the ability to thrust its stomach and making use of the digestive juices to dissolve its prey for a meal.

6.Echinoderms are benthic marine critters.

  • They commonly thrive on reefs and shores.
  • There’s no way to find them on lands and fresh water.
  • It will burst if you’ll try to put sea cucumber in fresh water.

7. Echinoderms are of ecological importance.

  • They are oxygen provider under the sea (eg, sea cucumbers) and a habitat for other invertebrates like worms and snails.
  • They are important in aquatic food web as they serve as the diet of some aquatic animals (eg. sea otter).
  • They keep marine ecosystem overrun by seaweeds and prevent growth of algae (starfish) on coral reefs because they feed on them.

8. Echinoderms are brainless.

  • Their arms are sensitive to varying degrees of light and chemicals to direct them in their verge of survival.

9. Echinoderms are edible.

  • Some species are source of food such as the sea urchins and sea cucumber.
  • Echinoculture is the commercial fishing and cultivation of echinoderms.
  • Some countries like Japan and France considered it delicacies (such as using sea urchin roe for making sushi).

10. Echinoderms play a major part in scientific research.

  • Biologically active compounds are found on some echinoderms mainly sea urchins and sea cucumbers.
  • Discovery of these compounds had contributed a lot in biomedical field through production of essential medicines for human.
  • Its potency is tested and known to have an effective antiviral and antimicrobial property.

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