Echinoderms represent a broad phylum with many tractable features to test evolutionary changes and constraints. Here, we present a single-cell RNA-sequencing analysis of early development in the sea star Patiria miniata, to complement the recent analysis of two sea urchin species. We identified 20 cell states across six developmental stages from 8 hpf to mid-gastrula stage, using the analysis of 25,703 cells. The clusters were assigned cell states based on known marker gene expression and by in situ RNA hybridization. We found that early (morula, 8-14 hpf) and late (blastula-to-mid-gastrula) cell states are transcriptionally distinct. Cells surrounding the blastopore undergo rapid cell state changes that include endomesoderm diversification. Of particular import to understanding germ cell specification is that we never see Nodal pathway members within Nanos/Vasa-positive cells in the region known to give rise to the primordial germ cells (PGCs). The results from this work contrast the results of PGC specification in the sea urchin, and the dataset presented here enables deeper comparative studies in tractable developmental models for testing a variety of developmental mechanisms.

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