Fell, Howard B. Formerly, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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A class of the subphylum Asterozoa (phylum Echinodermata), comprising the brittle stars and basket stars, in which the arms are usually clearly demarcated from a central disk and perform whiplike locomotor movements, and the tube feet are nonsuctorial sensory tentacles. In all existing species of the class Ophiuroidea, the ambulacral plates fuse together in pairs to form articulating joints, termed vertebrae, and the ambulacral groove is converted into an internal epineural canal. Typical ophiuroids have a distinctive shape (Fig. 1), unlike that of other asterozoans in the class Asteroidea, and the vigorous lashing movements of the arms distinguish them from asteroids. However, fossil ophiuroids are known that approach asteroids in structure, and the two groups are evidently closely related. See also: Asteroidea; Echinodermata; Fossil
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