The echinoderm endoskeleton, located in the connective layer of the tegument, is organized into a three-dimensional mesh, the stereom. Among echinoids, the cidaroids depart from this pattern, and the shaft of the spine lacks an epidermis. Thus, the spines lack antifouling protection, allowing ectosymbionts such as bryozoans and foraminiferans to attach. This raises a question about the adaptive role of the cortical layer of the stereom. This study examined the micro- and mesostructure of the spines of 11 cidaroid species collected in the Weddell Sea and Drake Passage, and the nature of their ectosymbiont attachments. Scanning electron microscopy was used to characterize the cortex surface and X-ray micro computed tomography (μCT) to describe the symbiont attachments. Spine microstructure features provide a useful taxonomic character for distinguishing among three species in the genus Ctenocidaris, and challenge a previous parasitic interpretation of cortical filaments on the spines of Rhynchocidaris triplopora. Ectosymbiont attachments were classified as Anchoring, Molding, Cementing, or Corroding. The study suggests that some microstructure features may be protective, keeping the ectosymbionts away from the cortex and loosely attached at intervals along the shaft of the spine, while other micro-structures facilitate attachment over considerable areas of the shaft.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science