Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

A new class of Echinodermata from New Zealand


During examination of echinoderms from sunken wood collected from depths between 1,057 and 1,208 m off the New Zealand coast, we discovered nine specimens of a small flattened discoidal invertebrate. These animals, briefly described here, superficially resemble a cnidarian medusa, but their pentamerous morphology is distinctly echinoderm-like. We consider that the features of these newly discovered echinoderms warrant the recognition of a new class. Xyloplax medmiformis n.gen. and n.sp. represents a radical departure in morphology from any other known extant echinoderm. Its obvious tube feet, clearly pentamerous body pattern, and calcite skeleton leave no doubt that the animal is an echinoderm. However, its concentrically arranged skeletal structures and single series of tube feet arranged in a ring are novel. The water vascular system of Xyloplax consists of a double ring of canals which service the tube feet in inter-radial positions; in all other living echinoderms the vascular ring (circum-oral) is single, and the tube feet are serviced from it in radial positions. These specimens represent the first new class of living echinoderms to be described since 1821. A full description of the new taxon is in preparation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Paul, C. R. C. Echinoderms: Proc. int. Conf. Galway (ed. O'Connor, B.) (Balkema, Rotterdam, 1985).

  2. Moore, R. C. (ed.) Treatise on Invertebrate Palaeontology. Echinodermata (Geological Society of America and University of Kansas Press, 1966–68).

  3. Blake, D. B. Palaeontology 25, 167–191 (1982).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Smith, A. B. Palaeontology 27, 431–459 (1984).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Paul, C. R. C. & Smith, A. B. Biol. Rev. 59, 443–481 (1984).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Baker, A., Rowe, F. & Clark, H. A new class of Echinodermata from New Zealand. Nature 321, 862–864 (1986).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing