The problem of the interrelations of the classes will thus be reduced to its simplest terms, and even questions as to the nature of the primitive Echinoderm and its affinity to the ancestors of other phyla may become more than exercises for the ingenuity of youth.
Eschscholtz at the Marshall Islands in 1825, Balanoglossus was described as a worm-like animal belonging to the Echinoderm order of Holothurians or sea-cucumbers.
Such characters are found in any primitive, sedentary group. More peculiarly Echinoderm features, in which the Pelmatozoan nature is manifest, are the enclosing of the viscera in a calcified and plated theca, for protection against those enemies from which a fixed animal cannot flee; the development, at the aboral pole of this theca, of a motor nerve-centre giving off branches to the stroma connecting the various plates of the theca and of its brachial, anal, and columnar extensions, and thus coordinating the movements of the whole skeleton; the absence of suckers from the podia, which, when present, are respiratory, not locomotor, in function.
Marchal points out the analogy of this phenomenon to the artificial polyembryony that has been induced in Echinoderm and other eggs by separating the blastomeres, and suggests that the abundant food-supply afforded by the host-larva is favourable for this multiplication of embryos, which may be, in the first instance, incited by the abnormal osmotic pressure on the egg.
This creature displays an almost unexampled frequency and extent of distribution in the whole North Sea, in the western parts of the Baltic, near the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and the English coasts, so that it may be regarded as a characteristic North Sea echinoderm form.