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Evaluating the effects of morphology and orientation on feeding in atrypide brachiopods using 3-D printed models

Dievert, Rylan V., Barclay, Kristina M., Molinaro, Darrin J., Leighton, Lindsey R.
Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 2019 v.527 pp. 77-86
Devonian period, Silurian period, aquatic organisms, biomechanics, dyes, energy, fossils, hydraulic flumes, models, morphs, streams, suspension feeding, North America
The brachiopod order Atrypida was one of the most diverse and abundant clades of marine organisms across North America during the Silurian and Devonian. Atrypide brachiopods were active sessile suspension feeders that used their lophophores to capture food particles from the water. Within the subfamily Variatrypinae, there are two end-member morphotypes associated with either high or low energy environments. It has further been suggested shape played an important role in enhancing feeding efficiency. The first morphotype is shield-shaped, weakly convex, and associated with low-energy systems. The second morphotype is globose and associated with high-energy systems. Furthermore, both pedicle-attached and liberosessile life orientations have been suggested for atrypides, based on both fossil material and biomechanical experiments. Any change in orientation could radically affect feeding efficiency. Our study uses biomechanical experiments on morphologically accurate 3-D printed atrypide models to evaluate the effects of shape and orientation on feeding current strength in the shield-shaped and globose morphotypes. We used 3-D scanning and printing to construct two morphologically accurate gaping models of the end-member shapes. The models included simulated body tissue, a flexible scale lophophore and valves of accurate thickness. A recirculating flume tank and dye streams were used to visualize ambient flow within the models in multiple pedicle-attached and pedicle-absent orientations to flow. During the trials the shield shape produced better ambient flow than the globose shape in pedicle-attached orientations. Further, pedicle-attached orientations produced better ambient flow than pedicle-absent orientations. Our results suggest that, shield-shaped atrypides benefited from enhanced ambient flow, while globose atrypides would have relied more on active pumping when in a pedicle attached orientation. As well, the results suggest a pedicle was required to orient atrypides for efficient feeding.