Cushion star

Odontaster validus

ORDER

Valvatida

FAMILY

Odontasteridae

TAXONOMY

Odontaster validus Koehler, 1906.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Broad central disc with five short arms tapering to a blunt tip. Can reach a size of 5.5 in (14 cm) in diameter and adopts a characteristic position with arm tips slightly raised. Colors variable, ranging from dark brown, purple, purple-red, orange, red-orange, red, brick red, dark carmine, and pink. It may have light-colored arm tips with yellowish white under surface.

DISTRIBUTION

Found throughout Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands, South Sandwich Islands, South Georgia Island, Shag Rocks, Marion and Prince Edward Islands, and Bouvet Island at depths down to 2,950 ft (900 m).

HABITAT

Commonly found inhabiting the shallow shelf waters of Antarctica, usually occurring between 49 ft (15 m) and 660 ft (200 m) depths.

BEHAVIOR

Attack large prey in gangs (e.g., the sea urchin Sterechinus neu-mayeri and sea star Acodontaster conspicuus). Recognizes chemical odor of individuals from the same species during feeding, minimizing the risk of cannibalism.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

An omnivore, capable of filter-feeding and eating a varied diet, including detritus, Weddell seal feces, diatoms, algae, crustaceans, mollusks, hydroids, bryozoans, sponges, polychaetes, and sea urchins. Everts stomach to feed. Predator is another sea star Macroptychaster accrescens and anemone Urticinopsis antarcticus.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Sexual reproduction. Broadcast spawning. Larvae feed on bacteria and algae, and have exceptionally low metabolic rates, which are ideal for long-term survival. Slow-growing, taking up to nine years to reach normal adult size.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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