Echinodermata

Class Echinoidea

Echinoids—sea urchins, heart urchins, and sand dollars—are echinoderms without arms and with a spiny shell, or test, formed of tightly fused skeletal plates. The sea urchins (regular echinoids) are hemispherical in shape, round on top and flat on the lower surface. They have very long, prominent spines and are often brightly colored. The test of a sea urchin is divided into ten parts from pole to pole, like the sections of an orange. Five of these are ambulacra, with openings for tube feet; these alternate with wider sections, called interambulacra, that lack tube feet. However, spines and pedicellaria are found over the entire surface of the test. Urchins move by pushing against the substratum with the spines and extending the tube feet in the direction of movement. If turned over they can right themselves by means of the tube feet on the aboral surface. The mouth, located in the center of the undersurface, is surrounded by a thickened region bearing five pairs of short, heavy tube feet and sometimes five pairs of bushy gills. Within the mouth is an elaborate five-sided jaw structure called Aristotle's lantern that can be partially extruded from the mouth. It is able to grind up calcareous exoskeletons of plants and animals. The anus is at the center of the aboral surface and is surrounded by a thin-walled area without skeletal plates.

Sand dollars and heart urchins (irregular echinoids) have a dense covering of short spines, and locomotion is exclusively by movement of the spines. There are two groups of podia-bearing ambulacra, one arranged in a petallike pattern on the upper surface and the other forming a similar pattern on the lower surface. The upper tube feet function as respiratory organs (there are no gills around the mouth), and the lower ones are specialized for gathering food particles. Sand dollars are extremely flattened and oval in outline; the anus is on the oral surface. Heart urchins are somewhat flattened and are heart-shaped; a deep ambulacral groove running from top to bottom creates a secondary bilateral symmetry. The anus is on the aboral surface, opposite the groove.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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