Members of the Asteroidea (phylum Echinodermata), popularly known as starfish or sea stars, are ecologically important and diverse members of marine ecosystems in all of the world's oceans. We present a comprehensive overview of diversity and phylogeny as they have figured into the evolution of the Asteroidea from Paleozoic to the living fauna. Living post-Paleozoic asteroids, the Neoasteroidea, are morphologically separate from those in the Paleozoic. Early Paleozoic asteroid faunas were diverse and displayed morphology that foreshadowed later living taxa. Preservation presents significant difficulties, but fossil occurrence and current accounts suggests a diverse Paleozoic fauna, which underwent extinction around the Permian-Triassic interval was followed by re-diversification of at least one surviving lineage. Ongoing phylogenetic classification debates include the status of the Paxillosida and the Concentricycloidea. Fossil and molecular evidence has been and continues to be part of the ongoing evolution of asteroid phylogenetic research. The modern lineages of asteroids include the Valvatacea, the Forcipulatacea, the Spinlosida, and the Velatida. We present an overview of diversity in these taxa, as well as brief notes on broader significance, ecology, and functional morphology of each. Although much asteroid taxonomy is stable, many new taxa remain to be discovered with many new species currently awaiting description. The Goniasteridae is currently one of the most diverse families within the Asteroidea. New data from molecular phylogenetics and the advent of global biodiversity databases, such as the World Asteroidea Database (http://www.marinespecies.org/Asteroidea/) present important new springboards for understanding the global biodiversity and evolution of asteroids.
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