Original Paper

Marine Biology

, Volume 154, Issue 6, pp 933-941

First online:

Size–frequency dynamics of NE Pacific abyssal ophiuroids (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea)

  • J. Ashley T. BoothAffiliated withHopkins Marine Station of Stanford University Email author 
  • , Henry A. RuhlAffiliated withNational Oceanography Centre, Ocean Biogeochemistry & Ecosystems (DEEPSEAS Group)Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
  • , Lawrence L. LovellAffiliated withMarine Biology Laboratory, County Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County
  • , David M. BaileyAffiliated withFaculty of Life and Biomedical Sciences, University of Glasgow
  • , Kenneth L. SmithJrAffiliated withMonterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The 17-year time-series study at Station M in the NE Pacific has provided one of the longest datasets on deep-sea ophiuroids to date. Station M is an abyssal site characterized by low topographical relief and seasonal and interannual variation in surface-derived food inputs. From 1989 to 2005, over 31,000 ophiuroid specimens were collected. Size–frequency distributions of the four dominant species, Ophiura bathybia, Amphilepis patens, Amphiura carchara and Ophiacantha cosmica, were examined for recruitment and the role of surface-derived food supplies on body size distributions. Juveniles were collected in sediment traps and used to investigate settlement patterns and seasonality. Trawl samples showed no indication of seasonal changes in recruitment to larger size classes; however, there was evidence of seasonal settling of juveniles. Interannual differences in median disk diameters and size distributions of trawl-collected adults are greater than those at the seasonal scale. Three of the four species, O. bathybia, A. patens and O. cosmica, had co-varying monthly median disk diameters, suggesting they may have a similar factor(s) controlling their growth and abundance. Interannual differences in monthly size distributions were generally greater than those between seasons. Cross-correlations between the particulate organic carbon (POC) flux (food supply) and size distribution indices for O. bathybia, A. patens and O. cosmica all were significant indicating that increases in food supply were followed by increases in the proportion of smaller size classes after approximately 17–22 months. These findings suggest that food inputs are indeed an important factor influencing deep-sea ophiuroid populations on interannual time scales, more generally supporting the long-hypothesized connection between food availability and population size structure in the deep sea.