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Free Content Spine Morphology and Its Significance in Feeding and Burrowing in the Sand Dollar, Mellita Quinquiesperforata (Echinodermata: Echinoidea)

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Microarchitectural and experimental studies of the common Atlantic sand dollar, Mellita quinquiesperforata, show the significance of spines in the dual process of feeding and burrowing. Scanning electron micrographs reveal seven structurally distinct spines. These include club-shaped, lunule, miliary, test-margin, locomotive, geniculate, and aperture-margin spines. Spine serrations act as valuable sites for the sorting and probing of food particles and fine sand. Pores at the distal ends of miliary spines are the sites of mucus secretion.

Sand dollars burrow most efficiently in 3ø sand grains. When placed in artificially sorted fractions of 0ø and 4ø sediment, the organism is unable to burrow, acquiring aboral accumulation of 4ø sediment which obstructs spine movement and eventually causes death. Feeding and burrowing by the echinoid take place simultaneously through spine manipulation. Mellita quinquiesperforata and M. sexiesperforata are similar in spine morphology and function, and these two species of echinoids may be regarded as selective deposit feeders.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 1979

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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