information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Small brittle star (Amphipholis squamata)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.



Amphipholis squamata is a small inconspicuous brittle star, with a circular disc and spindly arms. It is grey/bluish-white in colour. The disc has a diameter ranging between 3-5 mm, with its dorsal surface covered in small scales. The arms are up to 20 mm in length (approximately 4 x the length of the disc) and consist of numerous marginal plates each with 3 or 4 conical arm spines. The mouth shields are small rhomboids, with very broad mouth papillae.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

This species is widely distributed throughout the British Isles and Ireland. It is often overlooked, and therefore probably under recorded.

Global distribution



Amphipholis squamata can be found intertidally and in shallow water; under stones, amongst rockpool weeds and occasionally on sandy bottoms. It is also found amongst algal and bryozoan turfs.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Small inconspicuous brittle star.
  • Circular disc 3-5 mm in diameter, with small scales covering dorsal surface.
  • Thin arms 20 mm in length.
  • Grey/bluish-white in colour.

Additional information

This species is a deposit feeder collecting particles within its tube feet, and a suspension feeder via trapping detritus in mucus. It is hermaphroditic and the eggs are brooded and hatched as juveniles.

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Emson, R.H. & Whitfield, P.J., 1989. Aspects of the life history of a tide pool population of Amphipholis squamata (Ophiuroidea) from south Devon. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 69, 27-41.

  2. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

  3. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995a. The marine fauna of the British Isles and north-west Europe. Volume 2. Molluscs to Chordates. Oxford Science Publications. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  4. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  5. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  6. Mortensen, T.H., 1927. Handbook of the echinoderms of the British Isles. London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press.

  7. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  8. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin.

  9. Picton, B.E., 1993. A field guide to the shallow-water echinoderms of the British Isles. London: Immel Publishing Ltd.


This review can be cited as:

Rowley, S.J. 2006. Amphipholis squamata Small brittle star. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 23-09-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 06/09/2006