Marine Biology

, Volume 120, Issue 4, pp 521–533 | Cite as

Form and feeding mechanism of a living Planctosphaera pelagica (phylum Hemichordata)

  • M. W. Hart
  • R. L. Miller
  • L. P. Madin


We describe aspects of the anatomy and suspension-feeding mechanism of a single Planctosphaera pelagica captured from the plankton in June 1992 off Bermuda in the western Atlantic. We also describe several unusual features of the larva, including its occurrence in surface waters, unusually large size, and limited swimming ability. Our account of the form and feeding behavior of P. pelagica is the first based on observations of a specimen captured and observed alive. Our limited observations suggest that the planctosphaera may use a suspension-feeding mechanism much like that of the other feeding deuterostome larvae (the pluteus and bipinnaria larvae of echinoderms and the tornaria larva of enteropneust hemichordates) known to capture food particles using a single ciliated band. Although we could not observe cilia directly, the movement of dye streams and food particles and the structure of the ciliated band suggest that some particles may be captured at the ciliated band by the reversal of ciliary beat. The planctosphaera possesses many prominent mucous glands near the food grooves. This suggests an important role of mucus in the biology of the larva, but we were not able to observe directly any role of mucus in particle capture.


Surface Water Feeding Behavior Unusual Feature Food Particle Swimming Ability 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. W. Hart
    • 1
    • 2
  • R. L. Miller
    • 3
  • L. P. Madin
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Zoology, NJ-15University of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Friday Harbor LaboratoriesFriday HarborUSA
  3. 3.Biology DepartmentTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Woods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA

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