Comparative morphology of tube feet among the asteroidea: Phylogenetic implications

Academic Article


  • SYNOPSIS. Tube-foot morphology has been included among a variety of taxonomic criteria for the Asteroidea over the past twenty-five years. Other than a few families belonging to the order Paxillosida, which are thought to have pointed, nonsuckered tube feet that are used for digging and burial in soft sediments, the presumption has been that asteroids have flat-tipped, suckered tube feet. This has become an accepted model despite the fact that the comparative morphology of asteroid tube feet has not been considered. In the present study we examine tubefoot morphology of 45 species of Asteroidea representing 19 families. Our analysis confirms that members of the Luidiidae and Astropectinidae (order Paxillosida) lack suckers on the tips of their pointed tube feet. We demonstrate that there is considerable variation in tube-foot morphology among members of the Asteroidea including an entirely new type of flat-tipped, non-suckered tube foot in species belonging to the order Valvatida. The external morphology of tube feet in species belonging to the order Velatida could not be distinguished from "typical" flattipped, suckered tube feet; nonetheless, histological sections revealed a distinctive internal morphology. Finally, we report the first observations of the tube-foot morphology of representatives of deep-sea asteroids belonging to the orders Notomyotida and Brisingida, a group that also lacks the typical flat-tipped, suckered tubefoot morphology. The results of our study demonstrate that the current tube-foot morphology model needs to be reconsidered, as there is considerably greater variation than was previously believed to be the case. Moreover, we conclude that while tube-foot morphologies show consistent similarities within orders, tube-foot morphology is less appropriate as a taxonomic character below this: level.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Vlckery MS; McClintock JB
  • Start Page

  • 355
  • End Page

  • 364
  • Volume

  • 40
  • Issue

  • 3