Computational Fluid Dynamics Analysis of the Fossil Crinoid Encrinus liliiformis (Echinodermata: Crinoidea)
OPEN PloS one | 1 Jun 2016
JF Dynowski, JH Nebelsick, A Klein and A Roth-Nebelsick
Crinoids, members of the phylum Echinodermata, are passive suspension feeders and catch plankton without producing an active feeding current. Today, the stalked forms are known only from deep water habitats, where flow conditions are rather constant and feeding velocities relatively low. For feeding, they form a characteristic parabolic filtration fan with their arms recurved backwards into the current. The fossil record, in contrast, provides a large number of stalked crinoids that lived in shallow water settings, with more rapidly changing flow velocities and directions compared to the deep sea habitat of extant crinoids. In addition, some of the fossil representatives were possibly not as flexible as today’s crinoids and for those forms alternative feeding positions were assumed. One of these fossil crinoids is Encrinus liliiformis, which lived during the middle Triassic Muschelkalk in Central Europe. The presented project investigates different feeding postures using Computational Fluid Dynamics to analyze flow patterns forming around the crown of E. liliiformis, including experimental validation by Particle Image Velocimetry. The study comprises the analysis of different flow directions, velocities, as well as crown orientations. Results show that inflow from lateral and oral leads to direct transport of plankton particles into the crown and onto the oral surface. With current coming from the “rear” (aboral) side of the crinoid, the conical opening of the crown produces a backward oriented flow in its wake that transports particles into the crown. The results suggest that a conical feeding position may have been less dependent on stable flow conditions compared to the parabolic filtration fan. It is thus assumed that the conical feeding posture of E. liliiformis was suitable for feeding under dynamically changing flow conditions typical for the shallow marine setting of the Upper Muschelkalk.
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