BRITTLE STARS
Ophiothrix spiculata

Habitat: Brittle stars typically are found along the outer edge of rocky reefs.

Average adult size: Adults can grow to be 12 inches across.

Natural history: Brittle stars belong to the Phylum Echinodermata. This group of "spiny-skinned" animals contains the sea stars, sea cucumbers, brittle stars and sea urchins. Brittle stars have thin and flexible arms that wave in the currents. Their arms break off easily, hence the name "brittle" stars, but the lost arms quickly regenerate. They are filter feeders, trapping plankton with their sticky spines and tube feet. In the deeper waters, off California's rocky reefs, every inch of the bottom is covered with brittle stars. They reproduce by releasing eggs and sperm into the water. This is called broadcast spawning. It has been seen in the summer in Monterey, California. Brittle stars are eaten by reef fishes, sea stars and crabs.

Range: From central California south to Peru.


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