Superphylum Deuterostomia

Section Summary

Echinoderms are deuterostome marine organisms, whose adults show five-fold symmetry. This phylum of animals has a calcareous endoskeleton composed of ossicles, or body plates. Epidermal spines are attached to some ossicles and serve in a protective capacity. Echinoderms possess a water-vascular system that serves both for respiration and for locomotion, although other respiratory structures such as papulae and respiratory trees are found in some species. A large aboral madreporite is the point of entry and exit for sea water pumped into the water vascular system. Echinoderms have a variety of feeding techniques ranging from predation to suspension feeding. Osmoregulation is carried out by specialized cells known as podocytes associated with the hemal system.

The characteristic features of the Chordata are a notochord, a dorsal hollow nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, a post-anal tail, and an endostyle/thyroid that secretes iodinated hormones. The phylum Chordata contains two clades of invertebrates: Urochordata (tunicates, salps, and larvaceans) and Cephalochordata (lancelets), together with the vertebrates in the Vertebrata. Most tunicates live on the ocean floor and are suspension feeders. Lancelets are suspension feeders that feed on phytoplankton and other microorganisms. The sister taxon of the Chordates is the Ambulacraria, which includes both the Echinoderms and the hemichordates, which share pharyngeal slits with the chordates.