Crinoids, also known as "feather stars", “sea lilies” or comatulids are harmless, colorful creatures. They are among the most ancient and primitive of ocean invertebrates. Crinoids are Echinoderms (meaning "spiny skin"). To feed, they extend their arms to catch bits of plankton or detritus (waste matter) passing in the current, making them "suspension feeders". Tiny fingerlike tube feet that line the featherlike arms flick passing bits of plankton into special food gutters that run along the center of each arm; microscopic cilia carry the food along the gutter floors to the mouth. The number of arms a Crinoid has varies widely between species; some may have as many as 200, each up to almost 14 inches in length. Crinoids are distinguished from other echinoderms by the fact that their mouth is pointed upward, unlike their starfish cousins. There are nearly 550 species of comatulid crinoids worldwide.
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