BIOTIC Species Information for Asterias rubens
|Researched by||Georgina Budd||Data supplied by||MarLIN|
|Refereed by||Prof. David Nichols|
|Scientific name||Asterias rubens||Common name||Common starfish|
|MCS Code||ZB100||Recent Synonyms||None|
|Taxonomy References||Howson & Picton, 1997, Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Campbell, 1994, Fish & Fish, 1996, Mortensen, 1927, Coe, 1912,|
|Typical food types||Bivalves, polychaetes, small crustaceans, other echinoderms and carrion.||Habit||Free living|
|Bioturbator||Not relevant||Flexibility||High (>45 degrees)|
|Height||Insufficient information||Growth Rate||0.2-1 cm/month|
|Adult dispersal potential||1km-10km||Dependency||Independent|
|General Biology Additional Information||Growth rate
There is considerable irregularity in the growth rate of starfish, especially during their first year.
Thus the plasticity of the growth rate of Asterias rubens causes difficulties when studying the population dynamics of this species, especially as individuals cannot be aged by inspection of growth rings in any skeletal component of the body (Barker & Nichols, 1983).
Detailed experimental studies (Castilla & Crisp, 1970, 1973; Castilla,1972) have established that Asterias rubens has a well developed olfactory sense with adaptive preferences and avoidances. Asterias rubens demonstrates positive rheotaxis (purposeful movement of a motile organism in to a water current), which is enhanced in the presence of living prey such as Mytilus edulis (Castilla, 1972 ) and reversed in the presence of a predator Crossaster papposus (Castilla, 1972b).
Other species of the benthic fauna, including prey species Marthasterias glacialis, Buccinum undatumand several species of ophiuroids, demonstrate avoidance reactions in the presence of the predatory starfish Asterias rubens (Feder & Arvidssen 1967; Russell, 1984). These species can detect Asterias rubens owing to the release of a surface-active saponin from its body surface (Mackie et al. 1968).
|Biology References||Fish & Fish, 1996, Sloan, 1980, Barker & Nichols, 1983, Mackie et al., 1968, Russell, 1984, Feder & Arvidsson, 1967, Vevers, 1949, Nichols & Barker, 1984 (b), Nichols & Barker, 1984, Hancock, 1958, Orton & Fraser, 1930, Castilla & Crisp, 1973, Castilla & Crisp, 1970, Castilla, 1972,|
|Distribution and Habitat|
|Distribution in Britain & Ireland||Found on all British and Irish coasts, especially amongst beds of mussels and barnacles.|
|Global distribution||Abundant throughout the north-east Atlantic, from Arctic Norway, along Atlantic coasts to Senegal, and only found occasionally in the Mediterranean (Mortensen, 1927)|
|Biogeographic range||Not researched||Depth range||Intertidal to depths of 650 m.|
|Migratory||Non-migratory / Resident|
|Distribution Additional Information||Aggregation of starfish
In shallow coastal waters Asterias rubens sometimes occurs in dense aggregations of up to 100 specimens per m² (Table VII, Sloan, 1980). Dare (1982) reported an aggregation of Asterias rubens in Morecambe Bay, UK. The aggregation occupied 2.5 ha (1600 x 15 m) at its peak and contained at least 2.4 x106 starfish of 6 cm mean arm radius. Feeding concentrations within the aggregation commonly attained 300-400 starfish per m² representing a wet weight biomass of approximately 12-16 kg m². It was estimated that the aggregation cleared a zone that contained 3500-4000 tonnes of Mytilus edulis within 3 months (June-August).
Factors causing the aggregations of Asterias rubens are unclear but suggestions have been made that calm weather, amenable temperature and feeding conditions act together to give rise occasionally to aggregations. The occurrence of the phenomenon is dependent upon a large population of Asterias rubens larvae prior to the aggregation, which itself would be a function of good larval recruitment and growth conditions. Thus the irregularity of aggregations of Asterias rubens may be due to the need of a complex set of environmental variables to occur in the correct sequence over a number of seasons before an aggregation can occur. In addition, concurrent good mussel recruitment may also be required because an abundant prey source is a necessary focal point for the starfish (Sloan, 1980).
|Substratum preferences||Gravel / shingle
Coarse clean sand
|Physiographic preferences||Open coast
Strait / sound
Enclosed coast / Embayment
|Biological zone||Lower Eulittoral
|Tidal stream strength/Water flow||Strong (3-6 kn)
Moderately Strong (1-3 kn)
|Salinity||Full (30-40 psu)
Variable (18-40 psu)
|Habitat Preferences Additional Information|
|Distribution References||Hayward & Ryland, 1995b, Fish & Fish, 1996, Hayward et al., 1996, Mortensen, 1927, Sloan, 1980, Vevers, 1949, Anger et al., 1977, Dare, 1982 (b),|
|Reproductive Season||February to April||Reproductive Location||Water column|
|Reproductive frequency||Annual episodic||Regeneration potential||Yes|
|Life span||6-10 years||Age at reproductive maturity||1 year|
|Generation time||1-2 years||Fecundity||Large females can spawn 2.5 million eggs|
|Egg/propagule size||Insufficient information||Fertilization type||External|
|Reproduction Preferences Additional Information||Longevity
According to Schäfer (1972), the life span of Asterias rubens is 7-8 years, which is in agreement with interpretation of size frequency histograms for French populations (Guillou, 1983).
|Reproduction References||Fish & Fish, 1996, Vevers, 1951, Bouland & Claereboudt, 1994, Nichols & Barker, 1984, Jangoux & van Impe, 1977, Oudejans et al., 1979, Schäfer, 1972, Guillou, 1983,|