Tube feet

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Closeup of the tube feet of a live starfish.

Tube feet are the many small tubular projections found on the oral face of a sea star's arms; they are characteristic of the water vascular system of the echinoderm phylum, which also includes sea urchins, sand dollars and sea cucumbers and many other sea creatures.

Structure and function[edit]

Tube feet function in locomotion, feeding and respiration. The tube feet in a sea star are arranged in grooves along the arms. They operate through hydraulic pressure. They are used to pass food to the oral mouth at the center, and can attach to surfaces. A sea star that is overturned simply turns one arm over and attaches it to a solid surface, and levers itself the right way up.

Tube feet allow these different types of animals to stick to the ocean floor and move very slowly.

Tube feet consist of two parts: ampulla and podia. Ampulla contain both circular muscles and longitudinal muscle, whereas the podia contain the latter only. Thus the podia use suction to attach to the substratum.

Sea urchin shell, or 'test'. Each white band is the location of a row of tube feet; each pair of white bands is called an ambulacrum. There are five such ambulacra; the penta-radial symmetry reveals a kinship with sea stars.