Biology letters | 8 Dec 2017
EG Clark, BS Bhullar, SAF Darroch and DEG Briggs
Understanding the water vascular system (WVS) in early fossil echinoderms is critical to elucidating the evolution of this system in extant forms. Here we present the first report of the internal morphology of the water vascular system of a stem ophiuroid. The radial canals are internal to the arm, but protected dorsally by a plate separate to the ambulacrals. The canals zig-zag with no evidence of constrictions, corresponding to sphincters, which control pairs of tube feet in extant ophiuroids. The morphology suggests that the unpaired tube feet must have operated individually, and relied on the elasticity of the radial canals, lateral valves and tube foot musculature alone for extension and retraction. This arrangement differs radically from that in extant ophiuroids, revealing a previously unknown Palaeozoic configuration.
* Data courtesy of Altmetric.com