Serpent star (Ophiura ophiura)
|Researched by||Ana Ruiz||Refereed by||Admin|
|Other common names||-||Synonyms||Ophiura texturata (Linnaeus, 1758)|
A large robust brittlestar with relatively inflexible arms. The upper side of Ophiura ophiura is reddish or reddish brown in colour, often with white spots, while the underside (oral side) is white. The disc is up to about 3.5 cm in diameter and the arms are about 3.5 times as long as the diameter of the disc, up to 12 cm in length. The dorsal and ventral surfaces of the disc are covered with plates. The arms are made of articulating calcareous pieces that allow considerable twisting in the lateral plane. Ophiura ophiura can be distinguished from similar species by having pores between the ventral plates at the base of each arm and by having combs of about 30 fine papillae at each base.
Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland
All British and Irish coasts.
Recorded from North Norway and Iceland, south to the Azores, Madeira and into the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, frequent in the North Sea and Scandanavian waters and into the transitional area between the North Sea and the Baltic.
Common over sand and muddy-sand. It extends from the lower shore to depths of about 200 m.
Depth rangeLower shore to 850 m
- Central disc up to 3.5 cm across
- Arms 3.5 times the diameter of the disc, up to 12 cm in length.
- Upper surface of the disc with coarse scales.
- Arm spines lie almost flat against arms.
- Pair of pores between ventral plates at the base of the arms.
- Dorsal surface of disc reddish-brown, ventral side white.
Ophiura ophiura is omnivorous, an active predator capable of capturing and/or engulfing prey, but also a scavenger and detritivore. Its diet depends on the species available but it will prey on polychaetes, crustaceans (inc. isopods, amphipods), small bivalves (e.g. Spisula, Mytrea), other ophiuroids (e.g. the arms of Ophiura albida), larvae, nematodes, meiofauna, fish fragments, diatoms, and detritus such as plant debris and organically enriched sediments (Caspers, 1980; Feder, 1981; Feder & Pearson, 1988; Boos et al., 2010).
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Boos, K., Gutow, L., Mundry, R. & Franke, H.-D., 2010. Sediment preference and burrowing behaviour in the sympatric brittlestars Ophiura albida Forbes, 1839 and Ophiura ophiura (Linnaeus, 1758) (Ophiuroidea, Echinodermata). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 393 (1–2), 176-181. DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jembe.2010.07.021
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OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System), 2023. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2023-12-11
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Last Updated: 16/08/2022