Echinoderms are a plylum of animals that includes starfish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. They are radially symmetric marine creatures composed of identical segments rather than left/right mirroring. The most familiar is a typical starfish, which has five identical legs radiating out from its body.
Scientific name: Echinodermata
Echinoderms (Phylum Echinodermata) are a phylum of marine animals. The adults are recognizable by their (usually five-point) radial symmetry, and include such well-known animals as starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers. Echinoderms are found at every ocean depth, from the intertidal zone to the abyssal zone. The phylum contains about 7000 living species, making it the second-largest grouping of deuterostomes (a superphylum), after the chordates (which include the vertebrates, such as birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles). Echinoderms are also the largest phylum that has no freshwater or terrestrial (land-based) representatives.
Aside from the hard-to-classify Arkarua (a Precambrian animal with Echinoderm-like pentamerous radial symmetry), the first definitive members of the phylum appeared near the start of the Cambrian period. The word "echinoderm" is made up from Greek ἐχινόδερμα (echinóderma), "spiny skin", cf. ἐχῖνος (echínos), "hedgehog; sea-urchin" and δέρμα (dérma), "skin", echinodérmata being the Greek plural form.
The echinoderms are important both biologically and geologically. Biologically, there are few other groupings so abundant in the biotic desert of the deep sea, as well as shallower oceans. The more notably distinct trait, which most echinoderms have, is their remarkable powers of regeneration of tissue, organs, limbs, and of asexual reproduction, and in some cases, 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. Further, it is held by some scientists that the radiation of echinoderms was responsible for the Mesozoic revolution of marine life.
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