SUMMARY The anatomy and cellular organization of serotonergic neurons in the echinoderm apical organ exhibits class-specific features in dipleurula-type (auricularia, bipinnaria) and pluteus-type (ophiopluteus, echinopluteus) larvae. The apical organ forms in association with anterior ciliary structures. Apical organs in dipleurula-type larvae are more similar to each other than to those in either of the pluteus forms. In asteroid bipinnaria and holothuroid auricularia the apical organ spans ciliary band sectors that traverse the anterior-most end of the larvae. The asteroid apical organ also has prominent bilateral ganglia that connect with an apical network of neurites. The simple apical organ of the auricularia is similar to that in the hemichordate tornaria larva. Apical organs in pluteus forms differ markedly. The echinopluteus apical organ is a single structure on the oral hood between the larval arms comprised of two groups of cells joined by a commissure and its cell bodies do not reside in the ciliary band. Ophioplutei have a pair of lateral ganglia associated with the ciliary band of larval arms that may be the ophiuroid apical organ. Comparative anatomy of the serotonergic nervous systems in the dipleurula-type larvae of the Ambulacraria (Echinodermata+Hemichordata) suggests that the apical organ of this deuterostome clade originated as a simple bilaterally symmetric nerve plexus spanning ciliary band sectors at the anterior end of the larva. From this structure, the apical organ has been independently modified in association with the evolution of class-specific larval forms.