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Brief Summary

Oreaster reticulatus is widely distributed on both sides of the Atlantic, from North Carolina (U.S.A.) to as far south as Brazil and the Cape Verde Islands in West Africa (Scheibling 1980a; Hendler et al. 1995, cited in Guzman and Guevara 2002). Throughout the tropical Caribbean, O. reticulatus inhabits calm, shallow waters (Scheibling 1980a). Studies from St. Croix (Virgin Islands), the Grenadines, and Panama indicate that the species is found more abundantly on coarse, calcareous sandy bottoms that are isolated or surrounded by seagrasses such as Turtle Grass (Thalassia testudinum), Shoal Grass (Halodule wrightii), and Manatee Grass (Syringodium filiforme) and calcareous macroalgae such as Halimeda incrassata and Penicillus capitatus. Aggregations of reproductive individuals have a greater tendency to occur in dispersed sand patches and not in beds of dense Turtle Grass, whereas juveniles tend to be found in very dense meadows of Turtle Grass and Manatee Grass, where there is greater protection from predators. Juveniles, especially, are also found in soft sand and mud substrates that are typical of mangroves, lagoons, and some shallow reef environments. (Scheibling 1980a; Guzman and Guevara 2002 and references therein)

Scheibling and Metaxas (2010) found that coastal mangroves and fringing coral reefs, along with luxuriant seagrass beds, are important habitats for recruitment (production of the next generation) of O. reticulatus. They note that throughout the Caribbean (and the tropics worldwide) these habitats are threatened by shoreline alteration, pollution, destructive and unsustainable fishing practices, and, for coral reefs especially, the impacts of ocean warming and acidification

Oreaster reticulatus is an omnivore that feeds on a great variety of epiphytic microorganisms such as filamentous algae, diatoms, and small detritus particles. The number of microorganisms it consumes generally depends on their availability and its ability to capture them. It also feeds on sea urchins; sea cucumber juveniles; meiofauna such as polychaete worms, copepods, ostracods, and crab larvae; and sponge tissue. (Guzman and Guevara 2002 and references therein)

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