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Echinoderms:

Invertebrates Section collects specimens of invertebrates other than insects. Its collections are mainly dried or alcohol-preserved. As of April 2003, it already had 16,500 specimens, representing 1,950 species from 19 phyla. Among them, collections of marine echinoderm, mollusk and crustacean specimens are the most extensive and complete.

The section obtains specimens mainly from field collections by in-house researchers and fishermen who are commissioned to collect invertebrates appearing in their bottom trawl catches for the Museum. Some of specimens are donated by private individuals and researchers from other institutes or obtained through inter-museum specimen exchange programs.

The section currently has one curator and two assistant curators. Their focuses are the classification, reproduction and ecology of echinoderms, the ecology and evolution of crustaceans, and the classification and ecology of mollusks. The section also has a technician and a temporary worker to assist with the treatment, identification, maintenance of specimens, and the transcription and filing of relevant data.

The section uses the Invertebrate Specimens Management System developed by the Computer Science Division of the Museum to manage all entries of specimen data. This system allows one to make inquiries about information pertinent to specimens, such as analysis of collection locations, specimen quantity and list, and preservation status. Statistical data, inquiry results and labels can be printed out. In the future, the section plans to establish a more comprehensive data bank by linking the current database to the image database. Currently classification information is already accessible on the website of the Museum and can be easily acquired by other research units and the general public who are interested in our collections.

The section focuses primarily on the research and collection of echinoderms and has established the most abundant and complete collections of them in Taiwan. Echinoderms are a group of large-sized invertebrates found exclusively in marine environment. They inhabit many places from inter-tidal regions to great depths of thousands of meters deep. However, we most often meet them on dining tables, special local product shops and aquarium instead of in the ocean. Sea cucumbers are commonly used as food material by Chinese people. Japanese people regard sea urchins as precious sea food. Star fish are often used to add a marine air to a place. These organisms are all echinoderms and have helped usher the sea world into our life. However, compared to fish, shrimp, crabs and clams, echinoderms are big in size and abundant in number, but they are still quite strange to people and are studied by fewer scientists.

Echinoderms commonly seen are from five classes: Crinoidea, Asteroidea, Ophiuroidea, Echinoidea and Holothurioidea. Members of class Concentricycloidea live in deep ocean and are rarely seen. Up to date, there is not any record of them in Taiwan. There are about 7,350 living species of echinoderms worldwide and as many as 20,000 species of echinoderm fossils. Echinoderms appeared on Earth during the early Cambrian period and flourished during the Paleozoic, but today five classes of them have gone extinct completely.

  • Crinoidea

    There are around 650 species of Crinoidea recorded worldwide and around 110 species recorded in Japan. Researches on Crinoidea in mainland China are still focused on record keeping and classification. Currently, there are 62 species recorded in waters off southern China. As for Taiwan, due to difficulties in collection and observation, the class is seldom studied. There are only 20 species, representing 5 families and 16 genera, recorded in Taiwan, and all of them are members of Comatulid living in shallow waters of southern Taiwan. The specimens of Crinoidea sorted and identified by the Museum come from different areas around Taiwan, some even from surrounding waters of the Pratas Islands. Many of them are from depths of more than several hundred meters. Due to the fact that these specimens are from wide-ranging areas, including different waters of different depths, they are more diverse (9 families, 18 genera and 23 species) than those recorded in Taiwan. The Museum also has some specimens of stalked crinoids, which are only found in deep waters.

  • Asteroidea

    There are 45 species of Asteroidea recorded in Taiwan, representing 14 families and 34 genera. The number of species is comparable to that of Echinoidea recorded in Taiwan. However, the Museum already has Asteroidea specimens representing 22 families, 51 genera and 71 species. They account for the most species in the total collections of the five classes. Asteroidean species recorded in Taiwan are most widely spread in shallow waters with only 10 species living at depths more than 150m. The species collected by the Museum is 26 more than that recorded in Taiwan. The collections include many specimens obtained from waters more than 200m deep by fishing boats and research vessels, such as specimens from families of Brisingidae, Solasteridae, Porcellanasteridae, Benthopectinidae and Goniasteridae. These specimens are yet to be sorted out and described. At present, there are around 2,000 species recorded worldwide, 280 species recorded in Japan and 78 species recorded in waters off southern China. In comparison, Taiwan has only 45 recorded species, much less than that in the above-mentioned areas. The Museum has 71 species of specimens, nearly comparable to that recorded in waters off southern China, so this number should be closer to the actual number of species in Taiwan.

  • Ophiuroidea

    Class Ophiuroidea has more species than the other classes of phylum Echinodermata. There are around 2,300 species of them worldwide, 310 species in Japan and 131 species in waters off southern China. Due to insufficient scientists focus on the study of this class, only 26 species, representing 9 families and 14 genera, were recorded in Taiwan and all of them are living in inter-tidal regions and shallow waters. The Museum has identified 31 species (11 families and 20 genera) from its collections of this class, including species living in shallow waters and some deep-sea species, such as Gorgonocephalidae and Euryalidae. These deep-sea species often live symbiotically with sea pens and sea fans of phylum Cnidaria and are thus often caught together by collectors.

  • Echinoidea

    There are 45 species, representing 19 families and 37 genera, recorded in Taiwan, but the species identified by the Museum from its collections amount to as many as 64 species, representing 23 families and 50 genera. Most of the species recorded in Taiwan live in depths less than 300m deep. There are papers on species found in northeast Taiwan, but so far no papers are contributed to those newly found in waters off southern Taiwan, especially those deep-sea species. There are presently around 900 species of Echinoidea worldwide, around 160 species in Japan and 85 species in waters off southern China. Among the specimens collected by the Museum, only 64 species are identified, and it is estimated that more than 10 unknown species are yet to be identified and published. With an ability to explore waters up to 4,000m deep, it is foreseeable that the Museum would collect and exhibit more echinoderms from surrounding waters of Taiwan.

  • Holothurioidea

    There are around 1,500 living species of holothurians worldwide, representing 6 orders and 28 families. Japan has around 200 species, representing 6 orders and 21 families, while waters off southern China, 101 species representing 4 orders and 9 families, Taiwan, 30 species representing 6 families and 14 genera. From all its holothurioidean specimens, the Museum has identified 46 species, representing 10 families and 23 genera. All the holothurian species recorded in Taiwan live in shallow-water reef zones and are mainly obtained from inter-tidal regions and shallow water by scuba divers. Many holothurian specimens collected by the Museum are from catches by bottom trawlers and deep-sea trawl catches by research vessels. Therefore, some species that inhabit shallow-water flats and deep-sea sandy floor are yet to be listed in Taiwan¡¦s official records of holothurians. This is also the reason why there is a difference of 17 species between the Museum¡¦s collection and Taiwan¡¦s existing records. It is estimated that there are more than 60 holothurians species in the collections of the Museum.

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