Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tremaster mirabilis-"About which, little is known...."

You know what is frustrating about working on deep-sea echinoderms? You might have hundreds of specimens of some species..but you look it up to see if there's any BIOLOGY known (as opposed to systematics or taxonomy) ..and you get "The biology of this animal remains poorly understood..."

Case in point:Tremaster mirabilis

Valvatida; Asterinidae; "Tremasterinae".

South Pacific, Southern Ocean, North Atlantic, the Indian Ocean-pretty much all over the place but in deeper water! 300-500 m!

What else do we know? When alive, they are orange and appear to live with the lower "ledge" flush against the bottom. They are often collected in groups.

"Tremasterines" have what appears to be a Jurassic fossil occurrence...Apparently, a relatively old body form relative to other asterinids (if indeed they are truly related).

..... And there is a striking resemblance between Tremaster and a brain slug!!

Hubert Lyman Clark and other echinoderm biologists have apparently observed that Tremaster "incubates" its juveniles....but this behavior has never been thoroughly documented or examined...and "remains a topic ripe for study.."

What do those big interradial pores function for? Why the high conical body aspect?

And that's pretty much it. A summary (and the summary's dead-tree citation) of what's known about this animal is available here.

An intriguing and tantalizing beast!!

Plus...when observed from the oral surface, Tremaster bears a striking resemblance to the Sarlacc from Return of the Jedi!


Jives said...

It all comes back to science fiction with these inverts, doesn't it.

ChrisM said...

where echinoderm are always seems appropriate. :-)