Brachiopoda Name Meaning: Arm foot English Common Name: Lamp shells, brachiopods Major distinguishing characteristics: Lophophore and pedicle Approximate number of species described: between 300 and 500 extant
Brachiopods are marine aquatic organisms. They primarily live in colder oceans. Though they are fairly abundant, they are rarely seen unless you go looking for them.
They are filter feeders, living on the bottom. They usually attach themselves to a hard substrate.
Despite a long fossil history, perhaps because of it, the relationships within the Brachiopoda are not settled. There are probably about seven Classes within the Phylum.
Brachiopods have a hinged shell much like a clam, for which they can be mistaken. The shell material is secreted by the mantle, a structure they have in common with the Mollusca. The mantle also contains the organs of the animal.
Brachiopods have a lophophore, which is a structure with small tentacles that direct water toward the mouth, helping the animal to feed. The lophophore is U-shaped, forming brachia ("arms").
The Fossil Record
Brachiopods have a long fossil record. They first appear in the early Paleozoic. During the Devonian they were most diverse with over 200 genera having been identified.