Echinodermata includes familiar organisms such as sea stars and sea urchins as well as a wide array of extinct forms stretching back to the Cambrian Period.
Echinoderms share a recent common ancestor with other deuterostomes, including chordates, and provide a crucial link to understanding the tree of life as a whole and the history of our species.
However, understanding echinoderm phylogeny presents unique challenges. Whereas echinoderms are bilaterian animals, they have diverged considerably from this form. Most living echinoderms have five-sided symmetry. Moreover, the five living echinoderm classes are only a fraction of the diversity of Echinodermata, with much of echinoderm diversity is known only from fossils.
In recognition of these challenges, we have built a team to consider the fossil and the living echinoderms together. This proposal brings together world experts in paleontology, genomics, informatics, developmental biology, anatomy, and phylogenetics. The team has already assembled large amounts of echinoderm material suitable for morphological analysis and DNA sequencing.
Morphology Working Group: Projects
- Project I: Origin and basal relationships among echinoderms (Leader: Colin Sumrall)
- Project II: Pelmatozoan relationships (Leader: Colin Sumrall; also Bill Ausich, Bradley Deline, and Thomas Kammer)
- Project III: Origin of crinoids (Leader: Thomas Kammer; also Bill Ausich, Bradley Deline, and Colin Sumrall)
- Project IV: Diversification of Paleozoic crinoids (Leader: Bill Ausich; also Bradley Deline and Thomas Kammer)
- Project V: Paleozoic-Mesozoic transition of crinoids (Leader: Tomasz Baumiller; also Bill Ausich and Thomas Kammer)
- Project VI: Diversification within Articulata (Leader: Charles Messing; also Tomasz Baumiller and Greg Rouse)
- Project VII: Homology of early echinoderm anatomy (Leader: Colin Sumrall)