There are main 5 classes of living echinoderms:
crinoids (sea lilies and feather stars); asteroids (STARFISH); ophiuroids (brittle stars); echinoids (SEA URCHINS, etc); and holothuroids (sea cucumbers).
Echinoderms have been well preserved as FOSSILS; all existing classes and several others now extinct were present in the Ordovician (505-438 million years ago). They may have originated in the Precambrian (over 570 million years ago).
Common name : sea lilies, Sea Stars(STARFISH), sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and brittle stars.
Echinoderms occupy all habitats including coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass and soft-bottom areas.
Except for a few species which inhabit brackish waters, all echinoderms are benthic organisms found in marine environments. Echinoderms inhabit depths ranging from shallow waters at tide lines to the deep sea.(Barnes, 1987; Brusca and Brusca, 2003; University of Alabama Center for Communication and Educational Technology, 2000; Waggoner, 1999)
• saltwater or marine
• brackish water
Other Habitat Features
• intertidal or littoral
GeoGraphy and eco-system
Mainly a marine group, echinoderms are found in all the oceans. (Brusca and Brusca, 2003)
• arctic ocean
• indian ocean
• atlantic ocean
• pacific ocean
• mediterranean sea
Sea urchins are among the main herbivores on reefs and there is usually a fine balance between the urchins and the kelp and other algae on which they graze. A diminution of the numbers of predators (otters, lobsters and fish) can result in an increase in urchin numbers causing overgrazing of kelp forests with the result that an alga-denuded "urchin barren" forms.
Lawrence, J. M. (1975). "On the relationships between marine plants and sea urchins". Oceanographic Marine Biological Annual Review 13: 213–286.
Echinoderms are usually intricate parts of their ecosystems. Many asteroids are keystone species. Sea urchins, if not controlled by predators, may overgraze their habitat. Asteroids have several commensals, including polychaetes that feed on leftovers from the sea star's prey items. (Barnes, 1987; Brusca and Brusca, 2003)
Ecosystem Impact: keystone species