BIOTIC Species Information for Asterias rubens
Researched byGeorgina Budd Data supplied byMarLIN
Refereed byProf. David Nichols
Distribution and Habitat
Distribution in Britain & IrelandFound on all British and Irish coasts, especially amongst beds of mussels and barnacles.
Global distributionAbundant throughout the north-east Atlantic, from Arctic Norway, along Atlantic coasts to Senegal, and only found occasionally in the Mediterranean (Mortensen, 1927)
Biogeographic rangeNot researched Depth rangeIntertidal to depths of 650 m.
MigratoryNon-migratory / Resident   
Distribution Additional InformationAggregation 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 preferencesGravel / shingle
Coarse clean sand
Physiographic preferencesOpen coast
Offshore seabed
Strait / sound
Enclosed coast / Embayment
Biological zoneLower Eulittoral
Sublittoral Fringe
Upper Infralittoral
Lower Infralittoral
Upper Circalittoral
Lower Circalittoral
Circalittoral Offshore
Wave exposureExposed
Moderately Exposed
Very Sheltered
Tidal stream strength/Water flowStrong (3-6 kn)
Moderately Strong (1-3 kn)
SalinityFull (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),
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