Skin and Skeleton, Water Vascular Echinoderm

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Skin, skeleton, water vascular system of echinoderm by Wikipedia


Skin and skeletonA brittle star, Ophionereis reticulataA sea cucumber from MalaysiaStarfish exhibit a wide range of coloursStrongylocentrotus purpuratus, a well-armoured sea urchinCrinoid on a coral reefEchinoderms have a mesodermal skeleton composed of calcareous plates or ossicles. Each one of these, even the articulating spine of a sea urchin, is composed mineralogically of a crystal of calcite. If solid, these would form a heavy skeleton, so they have a sponge-like porous structure known as stereom.[16] Ossicles may be fused together, as in the test of sea urchins, or may articulate with each other as in the arms of sea stars, brittle stars and crinoids. The ossicles may be flat plates or bear external projections in the form of spines, granules or warts and they are supported by a tough epidermis (skin). Skeletal elements are also deployed in some specialized ways, such as the "Aristotle's lantern" mouthparts of sea urchins used for grinding, the supportive stalks of crinoids and the structural "lime ring" of sea cucumbers.[17]Despite the robustness of the individual skeletal modules complete skeletons of starfish, brittle stars and crinoids are rare in the fossil record. This is because they quickly disarticulate (disconnect from each other) once the encompassing skin rots away, and in the absence of tissue there is nothing to hold the plates together. The modular construction is a result of the growth system employed by echinoderms, which adds new segments at the centre of the radial limbs, pushing the existing plates outwards and lengthening the arms. Sea urchins on the other hand are often well preserved in chalk beds or limestone. During fossilization, the cavities in the stereom are filled in with calcite that is in crystalline continuity with the surrounding material. On fracturing such rock, distinctive cleavage patterns can be seen and sometimes even the intricate internal and external structure of the test.[18]The epidermis consists of cells responsible for the support and maintenance of the skeleton, as well as pigment cells, mechanoreceptor cells (which detect motion on the animal's surface), and sometimes gland cells which secrete sticky fluids or even toxins. The varied and often vivid colours of echinoderms are produced by the action of skin pigment cells. These are produced by a variable combination of coloured pigments, such as the dark melanin, red carotinoids, and carotene proteins, which can be blue, green, or violet. These may be light-sensitive, and as a result many echinoderms change appearance completely as night falls. The reaction can happen quickly the sea urchin Centrostephanus longispinus changes from jet black to grey-brown in just fifty minutes when exposed to light.[19]One characteristic of most echinoderms is a special kind of tissue known as "catch connective tissue". This collagenous material can change its mechanical properties in a few seconds or minutes through nervous control rather than by muscular means. This tissue enables a starfish to change from moving flexibly around the seabed to becoming rigid while prying open a bivalve mollusc or preventing itself from being extracted from a crevice. Similarly, sea urchins can lock their normally mobile spines rigidly as a defensive mechanism when attacked.[20]The water vascular systemMain article: water vascular systemEchinoderms possess a unique water vascular system. This is a network of fluid-filled canals derived from the coelom (body cavity) that function in gas exchange, feeding, sensory reception and locomotion. This system varies between different classes of echinoderm but typically opens to the exterior through a sieve-like madreporite on the aboral (upper) surface of the animal. The madreporite is linked to a slender duct, the stone canal, which extends to a ring canal that encircles the mouth or oesophagus. From this, radial canals extend along the arms of asteroids and adjoin the test in the ambulacral areas of echinoids. Short lateral canals branch off the radial canals, each one ending in an ampulla. Part of the ampulla can protrude through a pore (or a pair of pores in sea urchins) to the exterior and is known as a podium or tube foot. The water vascular system assists with the distribution of nutrients throughout the animal's body and is most obviously expressed in the tube feet which can be extended or contracted by the redistribution of fluid between the foot and the internal sac.[21]The organization of the system is somewhat different in ophiuroids where the medreporite may be on the oral surface and the podia lack suckers.[22] In holothuroids, the podia may be reduced or absent and the madreporite opens into the body cavity so that the circulating liquid is coelomic fluid rather than sea water.[23] The arrangements in crinoids is similar to asteroids but the tube feet lack suckers and are used to pass food particles captured by the arms towards the central mouth. In the asteroids, the same wafting motion is employed to move the animal across the ground.[24] Sea urchins use their feet to prevent the larvae of encrusting organisms from settling on their surfaces; potential settlers are moved to the urchin's mouth and eaten. Some burrowing sea stars extend their elongated dorsal tube feet to the surface of the sand or mud above and use them to absorb oxygen from the water column.[25]


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