Article: Morphology and biomechanical implications of isolated discocystinid plates (Edrioasteroidea, Echinodermata) from the Carboniferous of North America
Colin D. Sumrall and Ronald L. Parsley
Detailed examination of isolated thecal plates belonging to three discocystinid edrioasteroids, Spiraclavus nacoensis Sumrall, Hypsiclavus kinsleyi Sumrall, and Giganticlavus bennisoni Sumrall and Bowsher, reveals striking similarity in morphology among these species. Stereom observed in the ambulacral floor plates indicates that ligamentous connective tissue opened the ambulacral cover plates and muscle tissue closed them. The ambulacral floor plates are interpreted as rigid supports for the oral surface with the interambulacral areas acting as flexible integuments of plates. The aboral surface is interpreted as flexible and highly contractile. All discocystinid thecal openings are consistent in morphology with adaptations for thecal pressurization. Extension and contraction of the theca was accomplished by pumping water in and out of an inflatable sac associated with the periproctial opening. The pedunculate zone is interpreted as passively expanding and contracting by relaxing of mutable collagenous tissue and stiffening when the theca was in the desired position. All of these features illustrate that discocystinid edrioasteroids have highly-evolved morphology and function.