CBS announced today that Survivor: Palau, the tenth edition of its long-running reality series, will premiere Thursday, February 17 at 8PM ET/PT.

For the first time ever, Survivor: Palau will feature twenty castaways, an increase over the sixteen or eighteen contestants that previous editions have featured. Also, rather than begin the game already divided into two or more tribes, Survivor: Palau's twenty castaways will begin the game as one group of twenty, with three of them being sent home in the first episode.

According to Daily Variety, Palau's mid-February start date -- the latest winter Survivor premiere date since Survivor: Marquesas premiered on February 28, 2002 -- is intended to ensure that the series airs deep into the all-important May ratings sweeps period that is scheduled to run between April 28 and May 25, 2005.

A South Pacific island chain consisting of 83 islands just north of the equator, Palau was the location of several significant World War II battles. The impact of the "Pacific Theater" campaign remains to this day, with its island and surrounding blue waters still home to scattered ship and warplane wrecks, as well as numerous abandoned military vehicles.

According to local reports, Palau, which has also served as the filming location for a Japanese edition of Survivor, had previously been under consideration to serve as the site for last year's Survivor: All-Stars edition. However, production delays on Survivor: Pearl Islands reportedly forced Survivor producer Mark Burnett to eventually drop those plans and instead film All-Stars on the same Panamanian island chain that he had used for the previous Pearl Islands edition.

Both the cast size increase and the unexpected ejection of three castaways in its first episode are part of Burnett's efforts to keep Survivor fresh creatively. "It was all by design," he told Variety. "You have this situation now where everyone thinks they know more about the rules and format than we do. I wanted to see what happens by completely revamping the way of starting (the show)."

And according to Burnett, the revamp accomplished what he wanted. "They're given very little instruction about what to do, and some of them are genuinely lost," he told the trade paper. "Two people don't make it to the first challenge. That's how tough it is. It's very emotional."

Burnett hinted that he also has other twists in store for the series, but declined to offer specifics. "My job as showrunner, like if I were on a drama, is to come up with plot twists," he teased.

As part of its debut announcement, CBS also announced the identities and biographical information for Survivor: Palau's twenty castaways, filling in the holes that remained after online sleuths uncovered the names of all twenty of its castaways earlier this month.

The twenty contestants competing on Survivor: Palau are:

Coby Archa, a 32-year-old hairdresser from Athens, Texas

Ashlee Ashby, a 22-year-old fitness counselor from Easley, South Carolina

Gregg Carey, a 28-year-old business consultant from Chicago, Illinois

Bobby Jon Drinkard, a 27-year-old waiter currently living in Santa Monica, California who is originally from Troy, Alabama

Katie Gallagher, a 29-year-old ad executive from Merced, California

Caryn Groedel, a 46-year-old civil rights attorney living in Solon, Ohio who is originally from Yonkers, New York

Angie Jakusz, a 24-year-old bartender from New Orleans, Louisiana

Jolanda Jones, a 39-year-old lawyer from Houston, Texas

Stephenie LaGrossa, a 25-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Jonathan Libby, a 23-year-old sales and marketing person from Dallas, Texas

Jennifer Lyon, a 32-year-old nanny and graduate student from Encino, California

James Miller, a 33-year-old steel worker from Mobile, Alabama

Kimberly Mullen, a 25-year-old graduate student and former Miss Ohio USA from Huber Heights, Ohio

Ibrehem Rahman, a 27-year-old waiter from Birmingham, Alabama

Ian Rosenberger, a 23-year-old dolphin trainer living in Key Largo, Florida who is originally from Ambridge, Pennsylvania

Wanda Shirk, a 55-year-old English teacher from Ulysses, Pennsylvania

Willard Smith, a 57-year-old lawyer from Bellevue, Washington

Janu Tornell, a 39-year-old Vegas show girl from Las Vegas, Nevada

Tom Westman, a 41-year-old firefighter from New York, New York

Jeff Wilson, a 22-year-old personal trainer from Ventura, California