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Overview

Brief Summary

Place a live starfish on a wet surface, it will quickly attach itself to it using its strong suction cups. Try removing it, it won't be easy. It can even break open mussels with these strong suctions. Starfish use seawater to steer the feet. A smooth spot on top of the starfish is for filtering water. Its anus is also on top, precisely in the middle. Its mouth is exactly opposite, on the underside of the body.
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Biology

This predatory species takes a range of marine prey including other echinoderms (sea urchins, starfish and brittlestars), worms and molluscs as well as carrion (3). It often prizes bivalve shells apart, using the suckers on the tube-feet. Once a small gap has been opened, the starfish inserts the lobes of its stomach inside the shell, and starts to digest the bivalve (2). This starfish has a good sense of smell, which helps it to locate its prey and avoid predators (3). Some of its prey species are able to smell the starfish as it approaches and avoid it (3). The sexes are separate, breeding occurs in spring and summer and fertilisation occurs externally (2). The early larval stage (called a 'bipinnaria' larva) is planktonic, it transforms into a 'brachiolaria' larva before undergoing full metamorphosis and settling around 87 days after fertilisation (3). The life-span of a common starfish is between 5 and 10 years (3). Large aggregations occasionally form, of around 100 individuals per square metre (3). It is not known what triggers these aggregations (3).
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Description

The common starfish has 5 arms (although individuals may occasionally have just 4 or as many as 6) (2). The colour varies from red to yellowish-brown and more rarely violet (2). The upper surfaces of the arms feature a row of spines along the centre, and the underside has rows of 'tube-feet', which have suckers at the tips (2).
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Comprehensive Description

Description

 Asterias rubens is the most common and familiar starfish in the north-east Atlantic region. Asterias rubens may grow up to 52 cm in diameter, but commonly 10-30 cm. Asterias rubens is variable in colour, though usually orange, pale brown or violet. Deep-water specimens are pale. It has five tapering arms, broad at the base that are often slightly turned up at the tip when active.
  • Asterias rubens is considered to be conspecific with Asterias vulgaris from the eastern seaboard of the United States of America and Canada (Coe, 1912).
  • The size of Asterias rubens varies markedly with food availability and hence size is not necessarily a good indicator of age.
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Description

This starfish has five tapering, blunt-tipped, arms covered with small, scattered white spines. Small specimens are quite stiff but larger ones are rather soft and floppy. The white spines form a definite line down the centre of each arm. Between the spines are groups of soft transparent processes called papulae. Body colour is usually brown to pale orange, in some locations this may be masked by blue or purple. In exposed habitats up to 12cm, in more sheltered sites up to 30cm across. Leptasterias muelleri is a smaller species and can be distinguished by its firmer spinier texture and characteristic spines.
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Distribution

Lower shore to more than 200 m depth, on rock gravel and sand; very common 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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Not recorded for Mediterranean
  • Hayward, P.J.; Ryland, J.S. (Ed.) (1990). The marine fauna of the British Isles and North-West Europe: 1. Introduction and protozoans to arthropods. Clarendon Press: Oxford, UK. ISBN 0-19-857356-1. 627 pp.
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Labrador to Cape Hatteras
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Geographic Range

The Asterias rubens settles in the Northern Atlantic region on rocky, temperate shores. Most sea stars, including the Asterias rubens, may live in a variety of depths, including shallow shores to up to 200 fathoms. (Pearse, et al 1987; Bullough 1950)

Biogeographic Regions: atlantic ocean (Native )

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Widespread all around the British Isles.
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Range

Common and widespread around the coasts of Britain and Ireland, and throughout the northeast Atlantic from Norway to Senegal (3).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The body consists of a central disk from which five arms radiate outward. The arms are not sharply marked off from the central disk. Sea stars have no designated head, and the mouth is in the center of the disk on the lower side of the sea star. The Asterias rubens may be a variety of colors including red, purple, and orange. Asterias rubens are measured anywhere from 5mm in armlength diameter to 150mm in diameter. (Bullough 1950)

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Ecology

Habitat

intertidal, infralittoral and circalittoral of the Gulf and estuary
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Settlement of the Asterias rubens occurs along the rocky shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Studies performed along the coast of Nova Scotia show the tendency of these starfish to be found in kelp beds; they were the only echinoderms found on the kelp fronds. Further studies have shown that the population density of the Asterias rubens is correlated with subtidal blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, beds. These Mytilus edulis beds are short-lived due to intense predation; therefore, this influences the location of the Asterias rubens. (Barbeau, et al 1996)

Aquatic Biomes: coastal

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Depth range based on 3513 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 1563 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): -3 - 1158
  Temperature range (°C): 3.741 - 23.720
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.325 - 22.184
  Salinity (PPS): 31.635 - 36.225
  Oxygen (ml/l): 3.491 - 6.835
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.100 - 1.500
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 15.790

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): -3 - 1158

Temperature range (°C): 3.741 - 23.720

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.325 - 22.184

Salinity (PPS): 31.635 - 36.225

Oxygen (ml/l): 3.491 - 6.835

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.100 - 1.500

Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 15.790
 
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 Asterias rubens occurs in varying abundance upon a variety of substrata that include coarse and shelly gravel and rock. Reported abundances vary between 2-31 Asterias rubens per m² on fine sand and 324-809 specimens on algal carpets (Anger et al., 1977).
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The commonest British starfish intertidally and in the sublittoral. Particularly common on mussels in the shallow sublittoral and on soft sediments. One of the few echinoderms which can tolerate brackish conditions.
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Found on a range of marine substrata including fine sand, rock and gravel (3). It can often be found amongst mussel beds and barnacles on British shores (2).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Asterias rubens feed mainly upon molluscs, especially bivalves and snails. In addition, they act as scavengers on any dead animals they encounter. Like all sea stars, the stomach of the Asterias rubens turns inside out through the mouth and slips into the shell of the prey. Next, digestive enzymes enter the prey along with the everted stomach lining to further aid in digestion. The sea star also may use its tube feet to pry open a bivalve. (Pearse, et al 1987)

Studies have monitored the predation of the Asterias rubens upon sea scallops, Placopecten magellanicus. The experiments were designed to test the importance of prey size and vulnerability of the sea scallops to the sea stars. The Asterias rubens preferred small- to medium-sized scallops, based on the sea star's ability to slowly sneak upon the prey. When doing so, predatory sea stars emit saponins to which scallops and other prey species detect and use against the predator to monitor the distance between the two. This allows the scallop time to protect itself from the hungry predator by assuming the ready-to-swim position. Crabs and other fish have the advantage of agility compared to the slow creeping sea stars, allowing these quicker organisms better food selection, or in other words, larger scallops. (Barbeau and Scheibling 1994b, Barbeau, et al 1996).

Studies of the effect of temperature upon predation rates by sea stars concluded that the effectiveness of sea scallops' escape response decreases with increasing temperature, resulting in a higher success rate for the sea star. (Barbeau and Scheibling 1994a)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Breeding

Planktonic bipinnaria and brachilaria 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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Reproduction

The breeding season of the Asterias rubens occurs in the spring. A sea star is sexually mature after one year of development. Sea stars may reproduce sexally or asexually. Asexual reproduction involves division of the disk and regeneration of each half. Sexual reproduction involves the production of sperm and eggs by separate female and male sea stars. Fertilization occurs outside the individuals in the seawater.

During embryo development, the Asterias rubens forms a blastula, which in three days forms the larva with structures such as the gut, anus, and coelom.

Populations of Asterias rubens have been found to be infected with the ciliate Orchitophrya stellarum. This parasite infects only male sea stars causing a variety of damage, including mechanical damage to the gonads, alteration in the host's hormonal pattern, and direct consumption of gonadal tissues. This decreases the reproductive potential of a population and may reduce the proportion of males to females. Fortunately, the decline in the number of males within a population, increases the likelihood of larvae survivorship because of increased food availability. (Bullough 1950; Pearse, et al 1987; Borradaile and Potts 1963)

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Asterias rubens

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 17 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ATGAGAGTTATAATTCGTACTGAGCTTGCACAACCAGGGTCTTTACTTCAAGAC---GATCAAATTTATAAAGTTATAGTAACTGCTCATGCCCTCGTAATGATATTTTTTATGGTAATGCCTATTATGATAGGAGGATTTGGTAAATGACTAATCCCTCTCATG---ATAGGAGCCCCAGACATGGCATTCCCCCGCATGAAAAAAATGAGGTTTTGACTAATCCCCCCTTCTTTTTTACTTCTCCTAGCTTCCGCTGGGGTTGAAAGAGGGGCAGGGACTGGGTGAACAATTTACCCCCCTTTATCTAGAGGGCTAGCTCACGCAGGAGGATCTGTTGATCTT---GCTATCTTTTCCCTACACTTGGCTGGAGCTTCTTCTATTTTAGCCTCCATAAAATTTATTACAACAATTATAAAAATGCGAACGCCTGGAATGTCTTTTGATCGACTTCCTCTTTTCGTTTGATCAGTGTTTGTAACTGCTTTTCTCCTCCTACTTTCTCTCCCTGTTTTAGCCGGA------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------GCT------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ATT
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Asterias rubens

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 17
Specimens with Barcodes: 24
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Genomic DNA is available from 1 specimen with morphological vouchers housed at Queensland Museum
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Genomic DNA is available from 3 specimens with morphological vouchers housed at Australia Museum and Museum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory
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Conservation

Conservation Status

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

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Status

Widespread in Britain (3).
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Threats

Not currently threatened.
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Management

Conservation

Conservation action has not been targeted at this species.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The Asterias rubens does not adversely affect humans, except through competition for shellfish.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The Asterias rubens contributes no important benefits to humans.

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Wikipedia

Common starfish

The common starfish or common sea star (Asterias rubens) is the most common and familiar starfish in the north-east Atlantic. It has five arms and usually grows to between 10–30 cm across, although larger specimens (up to 52 cm across) are known. The common starfish is usually orange or brown, and sometimes violet; deep-water specimens are pale. The common starfish is to be found on rocky and gravelly substrates where it feeds on molluscs and other benthic invertebrates.

Description[edit]

The common starfish normally has five arms, broad at their base and gradually tapering to a point at their tips, which are often turned up slightly. There is a line of short white spines running along the centre of the aboral (upper) surface of the arms with low, soft mounds called papulae on either side. The oral (lower) surfaces of the arms have rows of small tube feet, used in locomotion and feeding. The starfish is usually orange or brick red on the aboral surface and paler on the oral surface but can also be purple or pale brown. Individuals from deep water are usually paler. It grows to a maximum diameter of about 52 centimetres (20 in) but a more normal size is 10 to 30 cm (4 to 12 in).[3][4]

Distribution[edit]

The common starfish is native to the northeastern Atlantic Ocean and its range extends from Norway and Sweden, through the North Sea, round the coasts of Britain, France, Spain and Portugal and southwards along the coasts of Africa to Senegal. It is largely absent from the Mediterranean Sea.[5] It is also known from the western Atlantic where it occurs between Labrador and Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. It is capable of surviving in brackish water.[2]

Biology[edit]

The common starfish feeds on a variety of benthic organisms. These include bivalve molluscs, polychaete worms, barnacles, gastropod molluscs, other echinoderms and carrion. When feeding on a mollusc such as a mussel, it attaches its tube feet to each shell valve and exerts force to separate them slightly. Even a gap of only 1 millimetre (0.039 in) is sufficient for the starfish to insert a fold of its stomach, secrete enzymes and start digesting the mollusc body. When the contents is sufficiently liquid, it brings its stomach back to its rightful position with the food inside. The common starfish has a well-developed sense of smell and can detect the odour of prey species such as the common mussel (Mytilus edulis) and crawl towards it. It can also detect the odour of the predatory common sunstar (Crossaster papposus), which eats other starfish, and take evasive action.[6]

The common starfish is dioecious, which means that each individual is either male or female. In the spring, the females release their eggs into the sea. A moderate sized starfish is estimated to be able to produce 2.5 million eggs. The males shed their sperm and fertilisation takes place in the water column. The larvae are planktonic and drift for about 87 days before settling on the seabed and undergoing metamorphosis into juveniles.[7] Common starfish are believed to live for about seven to eight years.[7] When well fed, the juveniles can increase their radius at the rate of slightly more than 10 mm (0.4 in) per month during the summer and autumn and slightly less than 5 millimetres (0.20 in) per month in the winter. An adult common starfish can survive starvation for several months although it loses weight in the process. One specimen shrank from a radius of 6 centimetres (2.4 in) to a radius of 3.8 centimetres (1.5 in) after starvation for five months.[8]

The ciliate protozoan Orchitophrya stellarum is sometimes a parasite of the common starfish. It normally lives on the outer surface of the starfish feeding on sloughed-off epidermal tissue. It appears to become parasitic when the host starfish has ripe gonads and is a male. It enters the starfish through the gonopores, the orifices where gametes are released. There may be a pheromone that alerts it to the fact that the testes are ripe and causes it to change its behaviour. As different species of starfish breed at different times of year, Orchitophrya stellarum may move from one species to another in accordance with their reproductive cycles. In the Atlantic Ocean, it may alternate between parasitising Asterias forbesi and Asterias rubens during the spring and summer and the winter host may be Leptasterias spp.. The ciliate has been found in the testes of all these species. When inside the gonad, it phagocytoses the sperm thus rendering the starfish infertile. Researchers have found a change in the sex ratios of affected populations with fewer males than females being present with the males being consistently smaller than the females.[9][10]

The common starfish produces a saponin-like substance designed to repel predators, which causes a reaction in the common whelk (Buccinum undatum), a common prey species. At dilute concentrations it caused the whelk to take evasive action and at higher concentrations it produced a series of convulsions.[11]

Mass strandings[edit]

Young herring gull eating a stranded starfish

In January 2013, large numbers of common starfish were washed up near Cleethorpes Pier on the east coast of England along with many razor shells. There were estimated to be four thousand starfish along the stretch of shore. The cause of this mass stranding was unknown but bad weather and storms out at sea coupled with higher than usual tides may have been to blame.[12]

This is not a unique phenomenon and other mass strandings have occurred in Britain and elsewhere at such places as Holkham Beach in Norfolk in 2009,[13] near Sandwich in Kent in 2008,[14] and near Brighton ten days later.[15] A similar occurrence occurred on the shore of the White Sea where vast numbers of starfish came ashore on a nine mile stretch of beach in 2004. It was said that people could not "walk around them because the whole shore was full of starfish". Russian experts expressed mystification as to the cause of the stranding.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Asterias rubens, MarBEF Data System
  2. ^ a b Mah, Christopher (2013). "Asterias rubens Linnaeus, 1758". World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  3. ^ Budd, Georgina (2008). "Common starfish: Asterias rubens". Marine Life Information Network. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  4. ^ Picton, B. E.; Morrow, C. C. (2010). "Asterias rubens: Linnaeus, 1758". Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  5. ^ Budd, Georgina (2008). "Common starfish: Asterias rubens: Distribution". Marine Life Information Network. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  6. ^ Budd, Georgina (2008). "Common starfish: Asterias rubens: General biology". Marine Life Information Network. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  7. ^ a b Budd, Georgina (2008). "Common starfish: Asterias rubens: Reproduction and longevity". Marine Life Information Network. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  8. ^ Vevers, H. G. (1949). "The Biology of Asterias rubens L.: Growth And Reproduction". Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 28 (1): 165–187. doi:10.1017/S0025315400055272. 
  9. ^ Vevers, H.G. (1951). "The biology of Asterias rubens L. II. parasitisation of the gonads by the ciliate Orchitophyra stellarum Cepede". Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 29 (3): 619–625. doi:10.1017/s0025315400052814. 
  10. ^ Burrowes, Robert B. (1936). "Further observations on parasitism in the starfish". Science 84 (2180): 329. doi:10.1126/science.84.2180.329. 
  11. ^ Mackie, A. M.; Lasker, R; Grant, P. T. (1968). "Avoidance reactions of a mollusc Buccinum undatum to saponin-like surface-active substances in extracts of the starfish Asterias rubens and Marthasterias glacialis". Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 26 (2): 415–418. doi:10.1016/0010-406X(68)90635-X. 
  12. ^ "Bad weather to blame for dead starfish washed up in Cleethorpes area". Grimsby Telegraph. 2013-01-24. Retrieved 2013-08-13. 
  13. ^ Macrae, Fiona (2009-12-09). "Graveyard on the shore for thousands of starfish as storm throws them from the sea". Mail onl;ine. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  14. ^ "Dead starfish washed up on beach". BBC News. 2008-03-08. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  15. ^ "Hundreds more starfish washed up". BBC News. 2008-03-16. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  16. ^ "Starfish deaths puzzle Russian experts". BBC News. 2004-06-25. Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
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