Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Research Article

The Structure and Function of the Tube Feet in Certain Echinoderms

J. E. Smitha1

a1 Department of Zoology, University, Sheffield

Comparison of the methods of adhesion and locomotion of the typical members of the four classes of the Eleutherozoa reveals a similarity of the adhesive mechanism in the Asteroidea, Echinoidea and Holothuroidea in that adhesion is due in part to suction and in part to the secretion of mucus. The ophiuroid, on the other hand, has tube feet which, because of their lack of a well-defined sucker, must adhere merely by their intrinsic stickiness. The ability to make use of suction results from the possession of a sucker so fashioned that the median part of the disk may be withdrawn from the surface of contact, with the resultant production of a vacuum. The sucker of the asteroid, echinoid or holothurian tube foot is well adapted for this purpose. An essential feature of such a disk is the presence of an arborescent system of connective tissue fibres extending from the basal plate to the outer limit of the ectoderm. By means of this system, the pull initiated by contraction of the longitudinal musculature of the podium is transmitted to the ectoderm of the sucking disk, the central part of which is thereby lifted up. Where suction plays no part in adhesion, as in the Ophiuroidea, the arborescent system of fibres is lacking.