Campbell, Andrew C. Department of Biological Sciences, Queen Mary College, University of London, London, United Kingdom.
- Classification and phylogeny
- Economic importance
- Parasitism and commensalism
- Feeding habits
- Respiration and water balance
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
A class of the asterozoan group of the phylum Echinodermata, often known as sea stars or starfish. Unlike their sister asterozoan class, the Ophiuroidea, the arms of asteroids (members of the Asteroidea) are not sharply demarcated from the rest of the body, the ambulacral ossicles never fuse to form vertebrae, and the tube feet are locomotory (Fig. 1). These tube feet are usually suctorial and emerge from an open ambulacral groove. The dominant growth gradients cause the skeletal ossicles to lie in longitudinal rows known as series (for example, adambulacral series, ventrolateral series, and inferomarginal series). Asteroids range in size from about 10 mm to 1 m (0.4 to 40 in.) across. Many starfish are brightly colored and attractive animals, but some are dowdy and cryptic. Their conjugated carotenoid pigments fade on preservation. Like most echinoderms, starfish have a life span of about 5 years. See also: Carotenoids; Echinodermata; Ophiuroidea
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