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Suspension-feeding in the brittle-star Ophiothrix fragilis

  • G. F. Warner (a1) and J. D. Woodley (a1)


Basket-stars are suspension-feeders and suspension-feeding by other brittle-stars was suspected long ago on circumstantial grounds, but it is only in the last twenty years that it has been actually demonstrated, and detailed descriptions of suspension-feeding behaviour are still available for only a handful of species. Blegvad (1914) pointed out that Ophiothrix fragilis (Abildgaard) and other species lead sedentary lives and feed largely on detritus on, or near, the sea-floor. Wintzell (1918) explicitly suggested tha and Ophiopholis aculeata (L.) are suspension-feeders, primarily on the grounds that they are commonly found in current-swept localities where plankton is rich, in association with known suspension-feeders such as Modiolus, Lima and Alcyonium. The same suggestion was made by Vevers (1952) who noted the occurrence of dense aggregations of O. fragilis in offshore, current-washed areas near Plymouth, and who later observed suspension-feeding behaviour in that species and in Ophiocomina nigra (Abildgaard) (Vevers, 1956). This was only the second time that suspension-feeding had been documented for any (ophiurid) brittle-star, but now it has been described in about a dozen species and suspected in others, mostly members of the Amphiuridae, Ophiactidae, Ophiothricidae and Ophiocomidae (MacGinitie, 1949; Kuznetsov & Sokolova, 1961; Moore, 1962; Magnus, 1964; Buchanan, 1964; Fontaine, 1965; Fricke, 1970; Pentreath, 1970).



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Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
  • ISSN: 0025-3154
  • EISSN: 1469-7769
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