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Overview

Brief Summary

Serpent stars are brittle stars. During the day, they often hide under stones or in the sand. Using their five arms, they search for food during the night by crawling over the sea floor. Although rarely witnessed, if you frighten a serpent star it can swim away.
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Comprehensive Description

Description

 The colour of the brittlestar Ophiura ophiura varies from dull brown to sandy orange. The disc is up to about 35 mm in diameter and the arms are about four times as long as the diameter of the disc. The dorsal and ventral surfaces of the disc is covered with plates. The arms are made of articulating calcareous pieces that allow considerable twisting in the lateral plane. Ophiura ophiura can be distinguished from similar species by having pores between the ventral plates at the base of each arm and by having combs of about 30 fine papillae at each base. It is red to brown in colour above, and paler below.Ophiura ophiura is a suspension feeder and feeds on a wide range of food.
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Source: Marine Life Information Network

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Description

A large active brittle star with short straight arms and a large disc. Colour varies from dull grey-brown to sandy-orange. The disc is patterned with obvious plates. There are well-developed arm combs with about 30 fine papillae and 3 arm spines. The proximal ventral arm plates are separated by paired holes or indentations. Disc 30mm., arms 3.5x disc diameter. Small specimens could be mistaken for other Ophiura species. Ophiura sarsi is equally large but the outer arm combs have only 9-12 rather broad papillae.
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Source: Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland

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Distribution

Low intertidal to more than 200 m, on sand or muddy sand, all round the British Isles
  • Southward, E.C.; Campbell, A.C. (2006). [Echinoderms: keys and notes for the identification of British species]. Synopses of the British fauna (new series), 56. Field Studies Council: Shrewsbury, UK. ISBN 1-85153-269-2. 272 pp.
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Source: World Register of Marine Species

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In both periods Ophiura ophiura was found to occur in the near-coastal zone, with the exception of the eastern coastal zone. The species always reached low densities, with a maximum of 20 ind./m2 in the 1976-1986 period and a maximum of 50 ind./m2 in the 1994-2001 period.
  • Degraer S., J. Wittoeck, W. Appeltans, K. Cooreman, T. Deprez, H. Hillewaert, K. Hostens, J. Mees, E. Vanden Berghe & M. Vincx (2006). The macrobenthos atlas of the Belgian part of the North Sea. Belgian Science Policy. D/2005/1191/3. ISBN 90-810081-6-1. 164 pp.
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Found all round the British Isles from low tide mark to 200m at least.
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Source: Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland

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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Description

Brittle stars consist of a central disk clearly separated from the slender, very agile and also very strong arms. Ophiura ophiura is very similar to Ophiura albida and can only be distinguished from this species by the presence of pores between the arm plates. The top is reddish to orange-brown; the bottom side is dirty white.
  • Degraer S., J. Wittoeck, W. Appeltans, K. Cooreman, T. Deprez, H. Hillewaert, K. Hostens, J. Mees, E. Vanden Berghe & M. Vincx (2006). The macrobenthos atlas of the Belgian part of the North Sea. Belgian Science Policy. D/2005/1191/3. ISBN 90-810081-6-1. 164 pp.
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Source: World Register of Marine Species

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Ecology

Habitat

Ophiura ophiura is found in fine to medium-grained sediments (median grain size: 150-500 µm) with an optimum in sediments with a grain size of 150-200 µm (relative occurrence: > 20%). The species clearly prefers sediments with a mud content of 30-40% (relative occurrence: 60%).
  • Degraer S., J. Wittoeck, W. Appeltans, K. Cooreman, T. Deprez, H. Hillewaert, K. Hostens, J. Mees, E. Vanden Berghe & M. Vincx (2006). The macrobenthos atlas of the Belgian part of the North Sea. Belgian Science Policy. D/2005/1191/3. ISBN 90-810081-6-1. 164 pp.
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Source: World Register of Marine Species

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Depth range based on 889 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 350 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 375
  Temperature range (°C): 6.433 - 19.208
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.437 - 16.868
  Salinity (PPS): 18.292 - 37.608
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.230 - 6.964
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.091 - 0.890
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.488 - 18.377

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 375

Temperature range (°C): 6.433 - 19.208

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.437 - 16.868

Salinity (PPS): 18.292 - 37.608

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.230 - 6.964

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.091 - 0.890

Silicate (umol/l): 1.488 - 18.377
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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 Common over sand and muddy-sand. It extends from the lower shore to depths of about 200 m.
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Lives on the surface of sand or muddy sand, occasionally burrowing shallowly. Moves rapidly on being disturbed, by a swimming action.
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© National Museums Northern Ireland and its licensors

Source: Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Breeding

Ophiopluteus larva. Summer
  • Southward, E.C.; Campbell, A.C. (2006). [Echinoderms: keys and notes for the identification of British species]. Synopses of the British fauna (new series), 56. Field Studies Council: Shrewsbury, UK. ISBN 1-85153-269-2. 272 pp.
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Source: World Register of Marine Species

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ophiura ophiura

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Wikipedia

Ophiura ophiura

Ophiura ophiura or the serpent star is a species of brittle star in the order Ophiurida. It is typically found on coastal seabeds around northwestern Europe.[1]

Contents

Description

O. ophiura has a circular central disc up to 35 mm (1.5 in) wide and five radially arranged, narrow arms each up to 140 mm (6 in) long. The general colour is mottled reddish-brown with a paler underside. Both the top and the underside of the disc are covered with calcareous plates. The arms are joined to the top rather than the edge of the disc and further small, articulating plates allow the arms to bend from side to side. There are small spines on the arms which lie flat against the surface. There are four larger plates across the root of each arm with the outer pair having a comb-like edge, with twenty to thirty fine papillae in each.[2] There are a pair of pores between the underside plates at the root of the arms.[3][4] There are five large mouth-shield plates on the underside of the disc which surround the central mouth. The teeth are in a vertical row above each of the five jaws and there are about five mouth papillae on each side of the jaw.[5]

Distribution and habitat

O. ophiura is found on the sea floor in the north east Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea from Norway and Sweden south to Madeira and the Mediterranean Sea. It is found below low tide mark in the neritic zone down to a depth of about two hundred metres, on sandy bottoms. It shows a preference for sediments with a fine grain size and approximately 35% mud content. [1][5] It is a common species with twenty individuals occurring per square metre in some years in the North Sea with a maximum of fifty.[6]

Biology

O. ophiura is an active brittle star, moving with a jerky swimming action of its legs and sometimes burrowing.[2] It is a filter feeder, feeding on a wide range of food,[1] but also a bottom-feeding carnivore and detritivore.[7] It can regenerate its arms if they are damaged or torn off.[7]

Sexual reproduction takes place during the summer. The larvae are the typical ophiopluteus larvae of brittle stars and later settle on the sea bed and develop into juveniles.[1]

Ecology

The copepod, Parartotrogus richardi, is an ectoparasite of O. ophiura.[1]

In the Clyde sea fishery for scampi (Nephrops norvegicus) in Scotland, the unwanted invertebrates that get caught up in the trawl include O. ophiura as well as the starfish Asterias rubens. A study was undertaken to discover the survival rate of these animals when discarded and returned to the water. It was found that uninjured A. rubens had a mortality rate of 4% whereas virtually all the O. ophiura died within 14 days, even when they were returned to the sea immediately after being caught.[8]

Another study examined the rate at which the discarded invertebrates sank to the bottom and their ultimate fates. O. ophiura sank relatively slowly and were preyed upon by seabirds, and the arms were eaten by fish. On the sea bed it was found that a succession of benthic scavengers thrived on their remains with crangonid shrimps and crabs such as Carcinus maenas and Liocarcinus depurator being prominent. In six hours little remained except the limbs of crustaceans and the discs of ophiuroids. The crab Pagurus bernhardus was the most likely scavenger to consume O. ophiura in baited traps.[9]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Ophiura ophiura (Linnaeus, 1758) World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Ophiura ophiura (Linnaeus, 1758). National Museums of Northern Ireland. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  3. ^ A brittlestar - Ophiura ophiura. Marine Life Information Network. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  4. ^ Barrett, J. & C. M. Yonge (1958) Collins Pocket Guide to the Sea Shore. Collins, London
  5. ^ a b Macrobenthos of the North Sea - Echinodermata. Marine Species Identification Portal. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  6. ^ Degraer S., J. Wittoeck, W. Appeltans, K. Cooreman, T. Deprez, H. Hillewaert, K. Hostens, J. Mees, E. Vanden Berghe & M. Vincx (2006). The macrobenthos atlas of the Belgian part of the North Sea. Belgian Science Policy. D/2005/1191/3. ISBN 90-810081-6-1. 164 pp.
  7. ^ a b Skold, M. (1996). "Arm regeneration frequency in eight species of ophiuroidea (Echinodermata) from European sea areas". Journal of Sea Research 35 (4): 353–357. doi:10.1016/S1385-1101(96)90762-5. Retrieved August 10, 2011.  edit
  8. ^ Bergmann, M.; Moore, P. G. (2001). "Mortality of Asterias rubens and Ophiura ophiura discarded in the Nephrops fishery of the Clyde Sea area, Scotland". ICES Journal of Marine Science 58 (3): 531. doi:10.1006/jmsc.2001.1046. Retrieved August 10, 2011.  edit
  9. ^ M. Bergmann, S. K. Wieczorek, P. G. Moore, R. J. A. Atkinson (2002). Utilisation of invertebrates discarded from the Nephrops fishery by variously selective benthic scavengers in the west of Scotland. Mar Ecol Prog Ser. 233: 185–198. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
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