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ECHINODERM LARVAE Starfishes and Sea Urchins The Phylum Echinodermata contains starfishes, brittle stars, sea urchins, and several additional classes. Most of the familiar coastal and estuarine echinoderms have planktonic larvae that are occasionally common in nearshore plankton but rare in brackish waters. Fertilization and larval development occur in the water column. Each class of echinoderms has one or more characteristic ciliated larval forms. Some echinoderms produce nonfeeding larvae that subsist on food reserves in the egg. More typically, the larvae feed on phytoplankton . Cilia provide currents for both locomotion and feeding. Many larvae are undescribed , and information on echinoderm larval occurrence and ecology along our coasts is spotty at best. Adult echinoderms often spawn synchronously, releasing clouds of gametes. Echinoderm larvae may be locally abundant for brief periods after spawning events. Identification to species is generally not feasible because larvae of many species have not been described. No systematic surveys of echinoderm larval distribution are currently available. PLUTEUS LARVA OF BRITTLE STARS, SEA URCHINS, AND SAND DOLLARS The rather similar echinopluteus larva of sea urchins and sand dollars and the ophiopluteus larva of brittle stars typically have eight arms supported by rigid, brittle skeletal rods. A dramatic metamorphosis follows shortly after they settle. BIPINNARIA LARVA OF SEA STARS The bipinnaria are variable in morphology; they change during development, and there may be noticeable differences between species. The bipinnaria is perhaps the most common of several different larval stages in the typical sea star developmental sequence. The similar brachiolaria larva is a later stage in this larval continuum rather than a separate larval type. The brachiolaria uses its slightly longer larval arms to test the substrate before settling. At metamorphosis, the larval arms are resorbed, and the adult arms form independently . SUGGESTED READINGS Emlet, R. B. 1994. Body form and patterns of ciliation in nonfeeding larvae of echinoderms: Functional solutions to swimming in the plankton. American Zoologist 34:570–585. Emlet, R. B., McEdward, L. R., Strathmann, R. R. 1987. Echinoderm larval ecology viewed from the egg. In: Jangoux, M., Lawrence, J. M., eds. Echinoderm Studies. Vol. 2. A. A. Balkema Press, Rotterdam, 55–136. Hart, M. W. 1991. Particle captures and the methods of suspension feeding by echinoderm larvae. Biological Bulletin 180:12–27. Strathmann, R. R. 1975. Larval feeding in echinoderms. American Zoologist 15:717–730. Strathmann, R. R. 1978. Larval settlement in echinoderms. In: Chia, F. S., Rice, M. E., eds. Settlement and Metamorphosis of Marine Invertebrates. Elsevier, New York, 235–246. ECHINODERM LARVAE 299 pluteus bipinnaria 100 µm 1 mm ...


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