M.J. Melchin and M.E. DeMont (1995). Possible propulsion modes in Graptoloidea: a new model for graptoloid locomotion. Paleobiology. 21(1): 110-120.


The motion of locomotion of any swimming animal is constrained by its size, architecture, and phylogenetic history. Considering these factors and the range of locomotory systems used by extant zooplankton, the range of possible modes of locomotion for graptoloids can be effectively limited. Three assumptions have been made: (1) graptoloids did not use a mode of locomotion unknown among modern organisms; (2) all graptoloids employed essentially the same mode of locomotion except, possibly, in their early growth stages; and (3) graptoloids did not rely entirely on passive buoyancy - no extant zooplankton groups in the size range of the graptoloids do. Structures that increase buoyancy or drag are often found in actively swimming zooplankton. They enhance feeding efficiency and reduce sinking rates during nonswimming periods. The modes of locomotion utilized by extant zooplankton groups are ciliary propulsion, elongate body undulation, jet propulsion, rowing with skeletonized appendages, and rowing or undulation with muscular appendages. Of these, all but the last can be rejected for the graptoloids on the basis of scale or architecture. It is concluded that graptoloids probably used a rowing or undulatory motion with muscular appendages for swimming. Using a pterobranch model for the graptoloid zooids, the lophophore is considered an unlikely propulsive structure because the design requirements would conflict with those of a ciliarly suspension-feeding organ. Winglike, lateral extensions of the muscular cephalic shield, the same structure used for creeping locomotion in the benthic pterobranchs, is regarded as the most likely propulsive organ, analogous to the pteropod swimming wings.

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Edwin DeMont, Associate Professor
Biology Department, St. Francis Xavier University
P.O. Box 5000, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, B2G 2W5 Canada
Voice 902-867-5116 FAX 902-867-2389
edemont@juliet.stfx.ca - June 18, 1995