The sea lilies and feather stars are members of an ancient group of stalked, sessile, detritus-feeding echinoderms. Most of the sea lilies remain stalked throughout life; their movements include bending the stalk and the arms and crawling. Feather stars break off the stalk and become free-living as adults. Crinoids, whether free or stalked, always have the oral side upward, and the ring of arms about the mouth gives them a flowerlike appearance. They have at least 10 arms, but some sea lilies have up to 40 and some feather stars up to 200 arms. The stalk and the arms have a jointed appearance, and each arm has a row of projections, the pinnules, on either side, giving a feathery appearance. A ciliated ambulacral groove runs along each arm and branches into the pinnules; the groove contains feathery, tube feet arranged in triads. These react to the presence of minute food particles in the water by bending inward, sweeping the particles into the groove, where they are trapped in mucus and swept by the cilia toward the mouth. Gametes develop in some of the pinnules, which rupture at spawning time. The free-swimming larva eventually settles and develops a stalk and a crown.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.