To attach to underwater surfaces, sea stars rely on adhesive secretions produced by specialised organs, the tube feet. Adhesion is temporary and tube feet can also voluntarily become detached. The adhesive material is produced by two types of adhesive secretory cells located in the epidermis of the tube foot disc, and is deposited between the disc surface and the substratum. After detachment, this material remains on the substratum as a footprint. Using LM, SEM, and AFM, we described the fine structure of footprints deposited on various substrata by individuals of Asterias rubens. Ultrastructure of the adhesive layer of attached tube feet was also investigated using TEM. Whatever the method used, the adhesive material appeared as made up of globular nanostructures forming a meshwork deposited on a thin homogeneous film. This appearance did not differ according to whether the footprints were fixed or not, and whether they were observed hydrated or dry. TEM observations suggest that type 2 adhesive cells would be responsible for the release of the material constituting the homogeneous film whereas type 1 adhesive cells would produce the material forming the meshwork. This reticulated pattern would originate from the arrangement of the adhesive cell secretory pores on the disc surface. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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