Larvae range from a few millimeters to a few decimeters, while adults can range from less than 1 cm to 2 m. While adult forms are radially symmetrical, larval forms are always bilateral. The radial symmetry is secondarily derived. The pentaradial form, whether it has arms or not, has a central disc.
An internal skeleton is present throughout members of the phylum. Ossicles, which make up the skeleton, are below an outer dermal layer. The skeletal and muscular arrangement varies among groups.
Pedicellariae produced by the skeleton, are pincer-like structures. Found mainly in echinoids and asteroids, their function is debatable. They may be used to capture prey, clean, or hold items to disguise from predators.
Echinoderms have a water vascular system consisting of a network of radial canals, which extend through each of the five extensions (arms or rays) of the animal. Each canal has a lateral connection which leads to a tube foot, which may be composed of three parts. Internally is the ampulla and externally is the podia. At the end of the podia is usually a sucker.
Grooves with rows of podia extending from the mouth are called the ambiculacra . Between each ambiculacra is the interambulacrum. For groups of animals with "arms" (sea stars, for example), the interambulacrum is just the space between the ambiculacra. For other animals without furrows (sea cucumbers, for example), the areas are like the ambiculacra, but usually lack holes for the tube feet.
The water vasuclar system opening, called a madreporite, lies on a particular interambulacrum. Letters are used to describe parts of echinoderms. The ambulacrum opposite the madreporite is section A. Moving clockwise, other parts are coded B through E. Sections C and D are termed the bivium while all the others are collectively termed the trivium. Interambulacrum sections are named using the letters of the ambulacra sections they are between (e. g. AB).
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; radial symmetry
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