No common name

Ophiura ophiura

ORDER Ophiurida

FAMILY Ophiuridae

TAXONOMY

Ophiura ophiura Linnaeus, 1758 "the sea," (probably North Sea). OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Ophiure commune; German: Gemusterter Schlangenstern; Norwegian: gra slangestjerne.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Active brittle star with a large disk as much as 1.38 in (35 mm) in diameter and relatively short arms. The dorsal side of the disk is gray-brown or sandy orange and patterned with plates. The arm combs are well developed, with 20-30 papillae in each comb.

DISTRIBUTION

Northeastern Atlantic from northern Norway to Madeira; Mediterranean.

HABITAT

Lives on the surface of soft ocean bottoms at depths of 6.5-660 ft (2-200 m).

BEHAVIOR

Ophiura ophiura moves rapidly in a rowing motion when it is disturbed. Occasionally it burrows shallowly in sediment. At rest, it assumes a position with its arms curved upwards at their tips, possibly to help it detect food from chemical cues in the water current.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Ophiura ophiura is an active omnivorous predatory brittle star that seizes its prey in one of its arm loops and then pounces on the food. It ingests a variety of small organisms that live on sediment, including mollusks, echinoderms, crustaceans and polychaetes; in addition it feeds on sediment, detritus, and ben-thic diatoms.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Ophiura ophiura has separate sexes. Its developmental pattern is seasonal, with a long spawning period that lasts from spring to late summer. Its life history includes an ophioplu-teus larva.

CONSERVATION STATUS Not listed by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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