Skip to main content

Predation on feather stars by regular echinoids as evidenced by laboratory and field observations and its paleobiological implications

  • Angela Stevenson (a1), Forest J. Gahn (a2), Tomasz K. Baumiller (a3) and George D. Sevastopulo (a1)

Among extant crinoids, the feather stars are the most diverse and occupy the greatest bathymetric range, being especially common in reef environments. Feather stars possess a variety of morphological, behavioral and physiological traits that have been hypothesized to be critical to their success, especially in their ability to cope with predation. However, knowledge of their predators is exceptionally scant, consisting primarily of circumstantial evidence of attacks by fishes. In this study the question whether regular echinoids, recently shown to consume stalked crinoids, also consume feather stars is explored. Aquarium observations indicate that regular echinoids find feather stars palatable, including feather stars known to be distasteful to fish, and that regular echinoids can capture and eat live feather stars, including those known to swim. Gut-content analyses of the echinoid Araeosoma fenestratum (Thomson, 1872), which is commonly observed with large populations of the feather star Koehlermetra porrecta (Carpenter, 1888) in video transects from marine canyons off the coast of France, revealed elements of feather stars in the guts of 6 of 13 individuals. The high proportion of crinoid material (up to 90%), and the presence of articulated crinoid skeletal elements in the gut of A. fenestratum, suggest that these echinoids consumed at least some live crinoids, although they may have also ingested some postmortem remains found in the sediment. Additionally, photographic evidence from the northeast Atlantic suggests that another regular echinoid, Cidaris cidaris (Linnaeus, 1758), preys on feather stars. Thus in spite of the broad suite of antipredatory adaptations, feather stars are today subject to predation by regular echinoids and may have been since the Mesozoic, when this group of crinoids first appeared.

Hide All
Bakus G. J. 1981. Chemical defense mechanisms on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Science 211:497499.
Baumiller T. K. 2003. Experimental and biostratinomic disarticulation of crinoids: taphonomic implications. Pp. 243248. in J. P. Féral, and B. David, eds. Echinoderm research 2001. Balkema, Rotterdam.
Baumiller T. K. 2013. Arm regeneration frequencies in Florometra serratissima (Crinoidea, Echinodermata): impact of depth of habitat on rates of arm loss. Cahiers de Biologie Marine 54:571576.
Baumiller T. K., and Gahn F. J. 2003. Predation on crinoids. In P. Kelley, M. Kowalewski, and T. H. Hansen, eds. Predator–prey interactions in the fossil record. Topics in Geobiology 20:263278. Kluwer Academic/Plenum, New York.
Baumiller T. K., and Gahn F. J. 2013. Reconstructing predation pressure on crinoids: estimating arm-loss rates from regenerating arms. Paleobiology 39:4051.
Baumiller T. K., and Messing C. G. 2007. Stalked crinoid locomotion, and its ecological and evolutionary implications. Palaeontologia Electronica 10:110.
Baumiller T. K., LaBarbera M., and Woodley J. W. 1991. Ecology and functional morphology of the isocrinid Cenocrinus asterius (L.) (Echinodermata: Crinoidea): in situ and laboratory experiments and observations. Bulletin of Marine Science 48:731748.
Baumiller T. K., Mooi R., and Messing C. G. 2008. Urchins in the meadow: paleobiological and evolutionary implications of cidaroid predation on crinoids. Paleobiology 34:2234.
Baumiller T. K., Salamon M. A., Gorzelak P., Mooi R., Messing C. G., and Gahn F. J. 2010. Post-Paleozoic crinoid radiation in response to benthic predation preceded the Mesozoic marine revolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107:58935896.
Blainville H. M. D. d. 1825. Oursin, Echinus (Actinozoaires). Pp. 59–98 in Dictionnaire des sciences naturelles. F. G. Levrault, Strasbourg & Paris.
Blyth Cain J. D. 1968. Aspects of the depositional environment and paleoecology of crinoidal limestones. Scottish Journal of Geology 4:191208.
Bottjer D. J., and Jablonski D. 1988. Paleoenvironmental patterns in the evolution of post-Paleozoic benthic marine invertebrates. Palaios 3:540560.
Bowden D. A., Schiaparelli S., Clark M. R., and Rickard G. J. 2011. A lost world? Archaic crinoid-dominated assemblages on an Antarctic seamount. Deep-Sea Research II 1(58), 119127.
Brandt J.F. 1835. Prodromus descriptionis animalium ab H. Mertensio in orbis terrarum circumnavigatione observatorum. Pp. 1–75 in Animalia Mertensii 1. Graeff, Petropoli and Leop. Voss, Leipzig.
Bryan P. J., McClintock J. B., and Hopkins T. S. 1997. Structural and chemical defenses of echinoderms from the northern Gulf of Mexico. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 210:173186.
Carpenter P. H. 1881. On the genus Solanocrinus, Goldfuss, and its relations to recent Comatulae. Journal of the Linnean Society of London (Zoology) 15:187217. plates 9–12.
Carpenter P. H. 1884. Report on the Crinoidea collected during the voyage of H.M.S. Challenger, during the years 1873–1876. Part I. The stalked crinoids. Report on the scientific results of the voyage of H.M.S. Challenger. Zoology 11(32).
Carpenter P. H. 1888. Report upon the Crinoidea collected during the voyage of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873–76. Part II. The Comatulæ. Pp. i–ix, 1–399, Plates I–LXX in C. W. Thomson and J. Murray. Report of the scientific results of the voyage of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873–76 under the command of Captain George S. Nares and Captain Frank Tourle Thomson. Zoology XXVI.
Carvalho C.N.D., Pereira B.C., Klompmaker A., Baucon A., Moita J. A., Pereira P., Machado S., Belo J., Carvalho J., and Mergulhão L. 2016. Running crabs, walking crinoids, grazing gastropods: behavioral diversity and evolutionary implications in the Cabeço da Ladeira lagerstätte (Middle Jurassic, Portugal). Comunicações Geológicas 2016:3954.
Clark A. H. 1907. Description of new species of recent unstalked crinoids from the North Pacific Ocean. Proceedings of the United States National Museum 33(1559), 6984.
Clark A. H. 1950. A monograph of the existing crinoids, Part 4C. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 82:1383.
Clark H. L. 1915. The comatulids of Torres Strait: with special reference to their habits and reactions. Papers from the Department of Marine Biology of the Carnegie Institution of Washington 8:97125.
Clarke J. M. 1921. Organic dependence and disease: their origin and significance. New York State Museum Bulletin 221–222:1113.
D’Orbigny A. 1840–1841. Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière, des Crinoides vivants et fossils, comprenant la description zoologique et géologique de ces animaux. Livr. 1, pp. 1–32 (1840); livr. 2–3, 33–98 (1841) (republished 1858). Published by the author, Paris.
Fryda J., Racheboeuf P.R., and Frydová B. 2008. Mode of life of Early Devonian Orthonychia protei (Neritimorpha, Gastropoda) inferred from its post-larval shell ontogeny and muscle scars. Bulletin of Geosciences 83:491502.
Gahn F. J., and Baumiller T. K. 2003. Infestation of Middle Devonian (Givetian) camerate crinoids by platyceratid gastropods and its implications on the nature of their biotic interaction. Lethaia 36:7182.
Gahn F. J., and Baumiller T. K. 2006. Platyceratid gastropod behaviour as a guide to camerate crinoid functional morphology. Historical Biology 18:397404.
Gahn F. J., and Baumiller T. K. 2010. Evolutionary history of regeneration in crinoids (Echinodermata). Integrative and Comparative Biology 50:514a514m.
Gorzelak P., Salamon M. A., and Baumiller T. K. 2012. Predator-induced macroevolutionary trends in Mesozoic crinoids. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109:70047007.
Gruvel A. 1911. Contribution à l'étude générale systématique et économique des Palinuridae. Mission Gruvel sur la côte occidentale d’Afrique (1909–1910). Résultats scientifiques et économiques. Annales Institut océanographique Monaco 3(4), 556.
Harper E. M., and Peck L. S. 2016. Latitudinal and depth gradients in marine predation pressure. Global Ecology and Biogeography 25:670678.
Hess H. 2014a. Origin and radiation of the comatulids (Crinoidea) in the Jurassic. Swiss Journal of Palaeontology 133:2334.
Hess H. 2014b. Seeigel auf Seelilienjagd. Fossilien 2/2014:1719.
Hess H., and Messing C. G. 2011. Comatulida. In: Hess, H., Messing, C.G., Ausich, W.I. (Eds.), Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, Part T, Echinodermata 2 Revised, Crinoidea, vol. 3. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, Kansas, pp. 70146.
Jablonski D. 2008. Biotic interactions and macroevolution: extensions and mismatches across scales and levels. Evolution 62:715739.
Janevski G. A., and Baumiller T. K. 2010. Could a stalked crinoid swim? A biomechanical model and characteristics of swimming crinoids. Palaios 25:588596.
Koehler R. 1901. Zoologie—Échinides et Ophiures. Résultats du Voyage du S.Y. Belgica en 1897–1898–1899 sous le commandement de A. de Gerlache de Gomery. Buschmann, Antwerp.
Kroh A., and Smith A. B. 2010. The phylogeny and classification of post-Palaeozoic echinoids. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 8:147212.
Lamarck J. B. M. de 1816. Histoire naturelle des animaux sans vertèbres. Tome troisième. Deterville/Verdière, Paris.
Lane N. G. 1984. Predation and survival among inadunate crinoids. Paleobiology 10:453458.
Lawrence J. M., and Vasquez J. 1996. The effect of sublethal predation on the biology of echinoderms. Oceanologica Acta 19:431440.
Leach W. E. 1815. The zoological miscellany 2; being descriptions of new, or interesting animals. London.
Leske N. G. 1778. Jacobi Theodori Klein naturalis dispositio echinodermatum…, edita et descriptionibus novisque inventis et synonomis auctorem aucta. Addimenta ad I. T. Klein naturalem dispositionem Echinodermatum. G. E. Beer, Leipzig.
Liddell W. D. 1975. Recent crinoid biostratinomy. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 4:1169.
Linnaeus C. 1758. Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Editio decima, reformata. Laurentii Salvii, Holmiae [Stockholm].
Macurda D. B., and Meyer D. L. 1983. Sea lilies and feather stars. American Scientist 71:354365.
McClintock J. B., Baker B. J., Baumiller T. K., and Messing C. G. 1999. Lack of chemical defenses in two species of stalked crinoids: support for the predation hypothesis for Mesozoic bathymetric restriction. Journal Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 232:17.
Messing C. G., RoseSmyth M. C., Mailer S. R., and Miller J. E. 1988. Relocation movement in a stalked crinoid (Echinodermata). Bulletin of Marine Science 42:480487.
Meyer D. L. 1971. Post-mortem disarticulation of Recent crinoids and ophiuroids under natural conditions. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 3:645.
Meyer D. L. 1985. Evolutionary implications of predation on Recent comatulid crinoids from the Great Barrier Reef. Paleobiology 11:154164.
Meyer D. L., and Ausich W. I. 1983. Biotic interactions among Recent and fossil crinoids. Pp. 377427. in M. J. S. Tevesz, and P. L. McCall, eds. Biotic interactions in Recent and fossil benthic communities. Plenum, New York.
Meyer D. L., and Macurda D. B. Jr. 1977. Adaptive radiation of comatulid crinoids. Paleobiology 3:7482.
Meyer D. L., LaHaye C. A., Holland N. D., Arenson A. C., and Strickler J. R. 1984. Time-lapse cinematography of feather stars (Echinodermata: Crinoidea) on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia: demonstrations of posture changes, locomotion, spawning and possible predation by fish. Marine Biology 78:179184.
Mladenov P. V. 1983. Rate of arm regeneration and potential causes of arm loss in the feather star Florometra serratissima (Echinodermata: Crinoidea). Canadian Journal of Zoology 61:28732879.
Müller J. 1841. Über die Gattungen und Arten der Comatulen. Monatsberichte Königlich Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin.
Oji T. 1986. Skeletal variation related to arm regeneration in Metacrinus and Saracrinus, recent stalked crinoids. Lethaia 19:355360.
Oji T. 1996. Is predation intensity reduced with increasing depth? Evidence from the west Atlantic stalked crinoid Endoxocrinus parrae (Gervais) and implications for the Mesozoic marine revolution. Paleobiology 22:339351.
Oji T., and Okamoto T. 1994. Arm autotomy and arm branching pattern as anti-predatory adaptations in stalked and stalkless crinoids. Paleobiology 20:2739.
Pallas P. S. 1774. Spicilegia zoologica, quibus novae imprimis et obscurae animalium species iconibus, descriptionibus atque commentariis illustrantur cura P. S. Pallas. Lange, Berlin Fasciculus 10.
Pennant T. 1777. Crustacea. Mollusca. Testacea. Vol. 4 of British Zoology. London.
Quoy J. R., and Gaimard P. 1825. Zoologie. Poissons. Pp.183–401 in L. de Frecinet. Voyage autour de monde, entrepris par ordre du Roi, exécuté sur les corvettes de S M l’URANIE et la PHYSICIENNE, pendant les années 1817–1820. Paris.
Rideout J. A., Smith N. B., and Sutherland M. D. 1979. Chemical defense of crinoids by polyketide sulphates. Experientia 35:12731274.
Rouse G. W., Jermiin L. S., Wilson N. G., Eeckhaut I., Lanterbecq D., Oji T., Young C. M., Browning T., Cisternas P., Helgen L. E., and Stuckey M. 2013. Fixed, free, and fixed: the fickle phylogeny of extant Crinoidea (Echinodermata) and their Permian–Triassic origin. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 66:161181.
Sallan L. C., Kammer T. W., Ausich W. I., and Cook L. A. 2010. Persistent predator–prey dynamics revealed by mass extinction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 108:83358338.
Schneider C. L. 2008. The importance of echinoids in late Paleozoic ecosystems. Pp. 7190. in W. I. Ausich, and G. Webster, eds. Echinodermata paleobiology. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
Schneider J. A. 1988. Frequency of arm regeneration of comatulid crinoids in relation to life habit. Pp. 531538. in R. D. Burke, P. V. Mladenov, P. Lambert, and R. L. Parsley, eds. Echinoderm biology. Balkema, Rotterdam.
Shaw G. D., and Fontaine A. R. 1990. The locomotion of the comatulid Florometra serratissima (Echinodermata: Crinoidea) and its adaptive significance. Canadian Journal of Zoology 68:942950.
Signor P. W., and Brett C. E. 1984. The mid-Paleozoic precursor to the Mesozoic marine revolution. Paleobiology 10:229245.
Slattery M. 2010. Bioactive compounds from echinoderms: Ecological and evolutionary perspectives. Pp. 591600. in L. G. Harris, S. A. Boettger, C. W. Walker, and M. P. Lesser, eds. Echinoderms. CRC Press, London.
Smith E. A. 1876. Descriptions of species of Asteridae and Ophiuridae from Kerguelen Islands. Annals of Natural History 17:105113.
Stevenson A. 2014. Deep-sea coral reef ecology: Feeding mechanisms, community interactions, and habitat associations of deep-sea echinoids. Ph.D. dissertation, Trinity College, Dublin.
Stevenson A., and Rocha C. 2013. Evidence for the bioerosion of deep-water corals by echinoids in the Northeast Atlantic. Deep-Sea Research I 71:7378.
Syverson V. J., and Baumiller T. K. 2014. Temporal trends of predation resistance in Paleozoic crinoid arm branching morphologies. Paleobiology 40:417427.
Thomson C. W. 1872. On the Echinidea of the “Porcupine” deep-sea dredging expeditions. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 20:491497.
Tinkova T. V., Kasumyan A. O., Dgebuadze P. Y., Oanh L. T. K., and Britaev T. A. 2014. Deterrence of feather stars (Crinoidea, Comatulida) from Southern Vietnam for the Indo-Pacific sergeant-fish Abudefduf vaigiensis . Doklady Biological Sciences 456:195198.
Vasserot J. 1965. Un prédateur d’échinodermes s’attaquant particulièrement aux ophiures: la langouste Palinurus vulgaris . Bulletin de la Société Zoologique de France 90:365384.
Vermeij G. J. 1987. Evolution and Escalation: An Ecological History of Life. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
Voje K. L., Holen Ø. H., Liow L. H., and Stenseth N. C. 2015. The role of biotic forces in driving macroevolution: beyond the Red Queen. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 282:20150186.
Wright T. W. 1857–1878. Monograph on the British fossil Echinodermata of the Oolitic formations. I. Echinoidea. Monographs of the Palaeontographical Society London , i–iv (March 1878); v–x,1–154, pls 1–10 (Feb. 1857); 155–302, pls 11–12 (April 1858); 303–390, pls 13–26 (Nov. 1859); 391–468, pls 37–43 (March 1861); 469–481 (March 1878).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0094-8373
  • EISSN: 1938-5331
  • URL: /core/journals/paleobiology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Stevenson supplementary material
Supplementary Movie

 Video (12.5 MB)
12.5 MB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 10
Total number of PDF views: 63 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 495 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 16th February 2017 - 24th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.