The fluid flow through the complex hydrospires of the spiraculate blastoid Pentremites rusticus was analyzed using the first high-resolution three-dimensional digital image (and animation) of the hydrospires taken from a serially sectioned specimen. Measurements of the cross-sectional areas within the hydrospires, in conjunction with the Principle of Continuity, were used to infer the relative water velocity throughout the structures. Even though the calyx narrows adorally, the hydrospires expand in size, keeping pace with the increasing volume of water that entered through the hydrospire pores. Thus, the water maintained a relatively constant velocity within the hydrospire canals, 3.4 to 4.5 times the incurrent velocity. The spiracular openings are sufficiently large that no substantial increase in the exit velocity of the seawater would have been achieved unless the spiracular cover plates were used to reduce the size of the spiracular openings, which we infer was probably the case. The three-dimensional images underscore the fact that the two hydrospires that lie under each ambulacrum do not share the same spiracle and are not connected. Thus, we here redefine the term “hydrospire set” to refer to the pair of hydrospires that are connected. A number of anomalous accessory pores and canals were identified in the digital images. This initial study is based on a single specimen, and thus we were unable to determine the full range of variation present in Pentremites rusticus. Nonetheless, the digital image and the application of the Principle of Continuity offer new insights into the form and function of these remarkable respiratory structures.
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Vol. 84 • No. 1