Biodiversity & Conservation

Virgularia mirabilis and Ophiura spp. on circalittoral sandy or shelly mud



Image Bernard Picton - Virgularia mirabilis, Cerianthus lloydii with Ophiocomina nigra on shelly muddy gravel. Image width ca XX cm.
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Distribution map

SS.CMS._.VirOph recorded (dark blue bullet) and expected (light blue bullet) distribution in Britain and Ireland (see below)

  • EC_Habitats
  • UK_BAP

Marine natural heritage importance

Listed under EC Habitats Directive
UK Biodiversity Action Plan
National importance Common
Habitat Directive feature (Annex 1) Large shallow inlets and bays

Biotope importance

If present in high numbers Amphiura filiformis provides an important link between the benthic and pelagic environments because it seems to be important in the diets of many fish and invertebrate predators including dab Limanda limanda, haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus and Norwegian lobster Nephrops norvegicus (Baden et al., 1990). These predators do not generally consume the entire brittle star but crop only the arms, which are later regenerated. An energy budget estimated for the Amphiura filiformis population of Galway Bay suggested that arm regeneration contributed significantly to the total annual production of this species (O'Connor et al., 1986).


  • Although scallops are exploited commercially, it is unlikely that they are collected from this biotope. However, if dredging for scallops did take place it would probably result in the destruction of sea pens and the loss of the biotope.
  • Due to the circalittoral nature of this biotope they are unlikely to be subject to coastal alteration, construction of tidal barrages or other large-scale environmental modifications. The fine sediments on which this biotope typically exists is not targeted for seabed extraction. Divers generally are not attracted to sedimentary habitats and so there is no likelihood of environmental damage by this means.

Additional information icon Additional information

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This review can be cited as follows:

Hill, J.M. & Wilson, E. 2004. Virgularia mirabilis and Ophiura spp. on circalittoral sandy or shelly mud. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 25/11/2015]. Available from: <>