Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Echinodermata
Class: Ophiuroidea – basket stars, brittlestars, snake stars
Order: Ophiurida – basket stars, serpent stars, basket stars, serpent stars
Family: Ophiodermatidae

Genus/species: Ophiothrix spiculata


GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Color highly variable: green, green-brown, or green-yellow, and more or less extensively marked with white, grey, orange, red, brown, or pink. Distinguished by serrate or conspicuously prickly spines on the disk and arms. Up to eight serrated and hyaline arm spines with jagged edges, radial symmetry with 5 segments. Disk up to 18mm (0.7 inches) in diameter, arms up to 85 mm (3.3 inches) in length.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Northern California to Peru; also Galapagos Islands. Found on the continental slope, kelp forest, submarine canyons. sandy and rocky seafloor in shallow waters to great depths from the shoreline down to 2,059 m (6,755 feet).

DIET IN THE WILD: They extend their arms are upward to filter the water for organic particles, small animals. They are nocturnal stretching out to catch food particles, using their small spines to pass the bits down to the central mouth.

PREDATION: When threatened their best form of defense is to slowly crawl away.



REMARKS: In kelp forests near La Jolla in southern California, millions of them may carpet the seafloor in layers up to an inch thick!

The arms of the spiny brittle star are very delicate and easily break off when the animal is disturbed. These echinoderms are able to replace lost arms in several days.

They are sensitive to light, and when disturbed can create their own light or bioluminescence.


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