The theory was that all the plates just described, and more particularly those of the cup, which were termed "the calycinal system," could be traced, not merely in all crinoids, but in all Echinoderms, whether fixed forms such as cystids and blastoids, or free forms such as ophiuroids and echinoids, even - with the eye of faith - in holothurians.
The theory has been vigorously opposed, notably by Semon (op. cit.), who saw in the holothurians a nearer approach to the ancestral form than was furnished by any calyculate echinoderm, and by the Sarasins, who derived the echinoids from the holothurians through forms with flexible tests (Echinothuridae, which, however, are now known to be specialized in this respect).
The support that appeared to be given to the theory by the presence of supposed calycinal plates in the embryo of echinoids and asteroids has been, in the opinion of many, undermined by E.
Aboral) poles of starfish and crinoids are not comparable with one another, and that all conclusions based on the supposed homology of the dorso-central of echinoids and asteroids with that of crinoids are incorrect.
Palaeontology lends no support to the idea that the dorsocentral is a primitive element; it exists in none of the early echinoids, and the suranal of Saleniidae arises from the minor plates around the anus.
Those plates are perhaps constant throughout sea-urchins and starfish (though it would puzzle any one to detect them in certain Silurian echinoids), and they may be traced in some of the fixed echinoderms; but there is no proof that they represent the radials of a simple crinoid, and there are certainly many cystids in which no such plates existed.
Palaeontology, so far as it goes, is a sure guide, but some of the oldest fossiliferous rocks yield remains of distinctly differentiated crinoids, asteroids and echinoids, so that the problem is not solved merely by collecting fossils.
It is spheroidal, with the mouth and anus at opposite poles; there are five ambulacra, and the ambulacral plates are large, simple and alternating, each being pierced by two podial pores which lie in a small oval depression; the ambulacrals next the mouth form a closed ring of ten plates; the interambulacrals lie in single columns between the ambulacra, and are separated from the mouth-area by the proximal ambulacrals just mentioned, and sometimes by the second set of ambulacrals also; the ambulacra end in the five oculars or terminals, which meet in a ring around the anal area and have no podial pores, but one of them serves as a madreporite; within this ring is a star-shaped area filled with minute irregular plates, none of which can safely be selected as the homologues of the so-called basals or genitals of later forms; within the ring of ambulacrals around the mouth are five somewhat pointed plates, which Jaekel regards as teeth, but which can scarcely be homologous with the interradially placed teeth of later echinoids, since they are radial in position; small spines are present, especially around the podial pores.
In more typical echinoids the covering-plates alone remained to form the ordinary ambulacral plates, while the flooring-plates disappeared, the canals and other organs remaining as before.