Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Haunting "Faces" (well...disks!) of Ophiurid Brittle Stars!

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to some festive, neat looking brittle stars from the tropics-mostly from the genus Ophiolepis!

Weird Antarctic Brittle Star love can be found here!

Well, I am STILL on that ophiuroid kick and wanted to show you guys even MORE of the strange and wonderous beauty of brittle stars. Except, today, I thought I'd show you some from the deep-sea!

These are all members of the family Ophiuridae, one of the world's most diverse groups that occur all over the world, but particularly well represented in the deep-sea (>200 meters) with many more new species likely to be discovered.

Most of the ones shown below belong to the genus Amphiophiura which is distributed throughout the world...but down at the bottom you'll see one of the more... UNUSUAL brittle stars that most people would ordinarily never get to see!

What's important to realize about most of these species is that, aside from the fact that we know they exist-we know almost NOTHING ABOUT THEM.

But they are interesting-and frankly, not everyone gets to see them like this-so I thought it fun to show the world! Plus, with Halloween just around the corner..I thought some weird echinoderms would add to the overall ambience!

So here's
Amphiophiura insolita (=Ophiura monaria) from Hawaii. The disk is about the size of a dime.
Amphiophiura pomphophora (from Japan-the Albatross Collection)
Amphiophiura coronata from the Caribbean (Puerto Rico!). Weird how the primary disk plates form that sort of pentagonal pattern on the center! Also, note how small it is-that's a penny in the background for scale!
When these are found, they can be abundant...but not much is known about them..

Amphiophiura bullata convexa from the North Atlantic
The animal's disk is strikingly dome-shaped and kinda looks like a soccer ball...

Amphiophiura superba (from Baja California, Mexico-the Albatross Collection). These can be quite thick and are surprisingly large. Sometimes, its hard to believe they are alive!
Stegophiura sterea from Japan!
And just for kicks.. what does the MOUTH and/or oral surface look like? Here ya' go!
and one of the strangest...a brittle star that LOOKS like a starfish... I give you..
Astrophiura marionae from off the Channel Islands in California!!
But other species in this genus are found all over the world.. Go here to see which ones!!Astrophiura is a weird beast and is unusual in that it displays a convergent/parallel/analogous appearance shared with the weird deep-sea starfish which are members of the Caymanostellidae.

A species of which was recently found by the recent California Academy of Sciences Expedition to the Philippines.
Some of the best echinoderms are the tiniest ones!
Until Next Time-Stay Outta Trouble!

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