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Biology/Natural History: One of the largest known ophiuroids, it can have a diameter of up to half a meter. It feeds on suspended particles by spreading its rays out like a fan, oriented mostly perpendicular to the current. Macroscopic zooplankton such as copepods, chaetognaths, and jellyfish are caught by microscopic hooks on the rays. The fine branchlet tips (see picture) then curl around the object and slowly move it toward the mouth (exact method is unclear). The prey of basket star species is said to range up to 3 cm (just over an inch) in size, and most basket stars capture prey mainly at night but may retain their prey until daytime to actually feed on them. Mucus may also help to immobilize prey. This species has also been reported to feed on the small benthic sea pen Stylatula elongata.

This species seems to have a strong co-occurrence with the soft coral Gersemia rubiformis. In Puget Sound, Gorgonocephalus juveniles have been reported within the pharynges of Gersemia polyps, where they appear to develop and apparently feed. The young do not leave the Gersemia until their rays are long enough to capture food.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 2.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

© Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory

Source: Invertebrates of the Salish Sea

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