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Invasive brittle star could change appearance and ecology of Atlantic coral

For millions of years, sea stars have been among the most recognized oceanic organisms. People around the world have recognized their beauty and importance since ancient times. Finding one washed up on the shore or during a snorkeling expedition is even more exciting and chances are we will be seeing one species, the yellow brittle sea star, Ophiothela mirabilis, more often as it has made it's way to the Atlantic Ocean.

However, this colorful, six-armed species of sea star is not be welcomed to these waters. In a study published in Coral Reefs, the Journal of the International Society for Reef Studies, Ophiothela mirabilis, which was once restricted to Pacific waters, has been found at Brazilian and Caribbean ports in the Atlantic Ocean. Not only is this species non-native to the Atlantic Ocean, but it is considered invasive because of its ability to reproduce asexually. The ophiothela brittle star clings in multitudes to corals and sponges splits in two, regenerating severed body structures. The ability of one star to "clone" vast numbers of identical twins enormously increases the species capacity to multiply and disperse.

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