Overview

Brief Summary

The Forcipulatacea is a diverse, primarily cold-water (some temperate and tropical members are known) lineage of modern asteroids that occur in all of the world's oceans from the intertidal to the deepest abyssal depths (>6000 m). The Forcipulatacea includes 393 species in 77 genera (Mah 2012), which ranks them as among the most diverse of the Asteroidea. Forcipulataceans are most diverse at high-latitudes with rich faunas in the Arctic and especially in the Antarctic.

Although the Forcipulatacea display a wide range of morphologies, taxonomists traditionally have found them to be readily separated from the remainder of the crown group. Characters helping to characterize forcipulataceans but not found in all members include the presence of distinct 3-part “forcipulate” pedicellariae (although pedicellariae vary among taxa), four rows of tube feet; foreshortened (or “compressed”) ambulacral and adambulacral ossicles, the latter alternating in furrow profile in taxa with four rows of tube feet; a reticulated dorsal skeleton; a well-developed adoral carina (abutted adambulacral plates adjacent to the mouth, the proximal skeleton recessed to form a so-called actinostome); small mouth-angle ossicles; the longest actinal series adjacent to the marginals rather than adjacent to the adambulacrals; and a small disk with thick, tapering arms.

Most historical accounts (Spencer and Wright 1966, Fisher 1911) have set apart the Forcipulatacea or “forcipulate” asteroids (i.e., the Forcipulatida+Brisingida) from the other members of the Asteroidea. This is a position that has been further supported by modern phylogenetic treatments of morphology (Blake 1987; 1990; Janies et al 2011; Matsubara et al 2005 and this study). Gale (2011) has placed forcipulates in a derived position within taxa historically regarded as members of the Valvatida. This position has not found historical agreement and is not followed by the treatment herein.

Monophyly of the Forcipulatacea itself has been relatively uncontroversial with support from traditional taxonomy (Fisher 1928, 1930), morphology-based phylogenetic studies (Blake 1987; Gale 1987) and molecules (Janies et al 2011; Matsubara et al 2005, Matsubara et al. 2004, Foltz et al. 2007; Mah and Foltz 2011). Subgroupings within the Forcipulatacea have encountered more difficulty, especially those associated with the Asteriidae, such as the Labidiasteridae (Fisher 1930; Spencer and Writght 1966; Fisher 1928; Mah 2000).  Mah and Foltz (2011) provided the taxonomic foundation for the summary below.

The Forcipulatacea, particularly the Asteriidae includes some of the most heavily studied and most familiar of marine invertebrates in ecology and environmental biology. Relevant taxa include Pisaster ochraceus, which has become an iconic representative of the keystone species concept as outlined by Paine (1966, 1969, 1974) and Asterias amurensis, which has been introduced to southern Australia as a pest species that threatens endemic shellfish (Ross, Johnson, Hewitt 2002, 2003, 2006; Ross, Johnson, Hewitt, Ruiz 2004). The Atlantic Asterias rubens and Asterias forbesi have been among the most familiar of ecological subjects in marine biology studies (Gaymer et al. 2001; Wong and Barbeau 2005). As important ecological members, asteriids such as the European Asterias rubens, the North Pacific Evasterias troscheli, and the temperate South Pacific Coscinasterias muricata have also been used as subjects in several oil pollution studies (O'Clair and Rice 1985; Georgiades et al. 2006; Joly-Turquin et al. 2009, respectively).

Taken from Mah and Blake 2012.

  • Blake DB (1990) Adaptive zones of the class Asteroidea (Echinodermata). Bull Mar Sci 46(3): 701–718.
  • Blake DB (1987) Classification and phylogeny of post-Paleozoic sea stars (Asteroidea: Echinodermata). J Nat Hist 21: 481–528.
  • Fisher WK (1911) Asteroidea of the North Pacific and adjacent waters. 1. Phanerozonia and Spinulosida. Bull US Nat Mus 76: xiii+420: 1–122 pls.
  • Fisher WK (1928) Asteroidea of the North Pacific and adjacent waters. Part 2. Forcipulata (part). Bull US Nat Mus 76(2): 1–245.
  • Fisher WK (1930) Asteroidea of the North Pacific and adjacent waters. Part 3. Forcipulata (concluded). Bull US Nat Mus 76(3): 1–356.
  • Foltz DW, Bolton MT, Kelley SP, Kelley BD, Nguyen AT (2007) Combined mitochondrial and nuclear sequences support the monophyly of forcipulatacean sea stars. Mol Phylogenet Evol 43: 627–634.
  • Gale AS (1987) Phylogeny and classification of the Asteroidea (Echinodermata). Zool J Linn Soc 89: 107–132.
  • Gale AS (2011) The phylogeny of post-Paleozoic Asteroidea (Neoasteroidea, Echinodermata). Spec Pap Palaeontol 85: 1–112.
  • Gaymer CF, Himmelman JH, Johnson LE (2001) Distribution and feeding ecology of the seastars Leptasterias polaris and Asterias vulgaris in the northern Gulf of St Lawrence, Canada. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 81(5): 827–843.
  • Georgiades ET, Danis B, Gillan DC, Dubois Ph, Temara A, et al. (2006) Effect of crude oil contaminated sediment exposure on cytochrome P450 enzymes in the Australian asteroid Coscinasterias muricata. Chemosphere 65(10): 1869–1877.
  • Janies D, Voight J, Daly M (2011) Echinoderm Phylogeny Including Xyloplax, a Progenetic Asteroid. Sys Biol 60(4): 420–438.
  • Joly-Turquin G, Dubois P, Coteur G, Danis B, Leyzour S, et al. (2009) Effects of the Erika Oil Spill on the Common Starfish Asterias rubens, Evaluated by Field and Laboratory Studies. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 56(2): 209–220.
  • Mah C (2000) Preliminary phylogeny of the forcipulatacean Asteroidea. Am Zool 40(3): 375–381.
  • Mah C (2012) Forcipulatacea. Accessed through: Mah, C.L. (2012). World Asteroidea database at http://www.marinespecies.org/Asteroidea/​aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=582527 on 2012-03-04.
  • Mah, C. L., & Blake, D. B. (2012). Global diversity and phylogeny of the Asteroidea (Echinodermata). PloS one, 7(4), e35644.
  • Mah CL, Foltz DW (2011) Molecular Phylogeny of the Forcipulatacea (Asteroidea: Echinodermata): Systematics and Biogeography. Zool J Linn Soc 162: 646–660.
  • Matsubara M, Komatsu M, Araki T, Asakawa S, Yokobori S, et al. (2005) The phylogenetic status of Paxillosida (Asteroidea) based on complete mitochondrial DNA sequences. Mol Phylogenet Evol 36: 598–605.
  • Matsubara M, Komatsu M, Wada H (2004) Close relationship between Asterina and Solasteridae (Asteroidea) supported by both nuclear and mitochondrial gene molecular phylogenies. Zool Sci 21: 785–793.
  • O'Clair CE, Rice SD (1985) Depression of feeding and growth rates of the seastar Evasterias troschelii during long-term exposure to the water-soluble fraction of crude oil. Mar Biol 84(3): 331–340.
  • Paine RT (1966) Food web complexity and species diversity. Am Nat 100: 65–75.
  • Paine RT (1969) The Pisaster-Tegula interaction: prey patches, predator food preference and intertidal community structure. Ecology 50: 950–961.
  • Paine RT (1974) Intertidal Community Structure: Experimental studies on the relationship between a dominant competitor and its principal predator. Oecologia 15: 93–120.
  • Ross DJ, Johnson CR, Hewitt CL (2002) Impact of introduced seastars Asterias amurensis on survivorship of juvenile commercial bivalves Fulvia tenuicostata. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 241: 99–112.
  • Ross DJ, Johnson CR, Hewitt CL (2003) Variability in the impact of an introduced predator (Asterias amurensis: Asteroidea) on soft-sediment assemblages. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 288: 257–278.
  • Ross DJ, Johnson CR, Hewitt CL, Ruiz GM (2004) Interaction and impacts of two introduced species on a soft-sediment marine assemblage in SE Tasmania. Mar Biol 144: 747–756.
  • Ross DJ, Johnson CR, Hewitt CL (2006) Abundance of the introduced seastar, Asterias amurensis, and spatial variability in soft sediment assemblages in SE Tasmania: Clear correlations but complex interpretation. Est Coas Shelf Sci 67: 695–707.
  • Spencer WK, Wright CW (1966) Asterozoans, Part U: Echinodermata. In: Moore RC, editor. Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. 3. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press. pp. U4–U107.
  • Wong MC, Barbeau MA (2005) Prey selection and the functional response of sea stars (Asterias vulgaris Verrill) and rock crabs (Cancer irroratus Say) preying on juvenile sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus (Gmelin)) and blue mussels (Mytilus edulis Linnaeus). J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 327(1): 1–21.
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Fossil species

recent & fossil

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Evolution and Systematics

Systematics or Phylogenetics

Mah and Foltz (2011) supported six primary lineages within the Forcipulatacea. This includes the Asteriidae, the Brisingida, a modified Heliasteridae, the Stichasteridae, the Zoroasteridaeand a paraphyletic “Pedicellasteridae”.

From Mah and Blake 2012.

  • Mah, C. L., & Blake, D. B. (2012). Global diversity and phylogeny of the Asteroidea (Echinodermata). PloS one, 7(4), e35644.
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