, Volume 158, Issue 3, pp 639-648,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 11 Dec 2010

Ontogenetic habitat shift, population growth, and burrowing behavior of the Indo-Pacific beach star, Archaster typicus (Echinodermata; Asteroidea)

Abstract

Archaster typicus, a common sea star in Indo-Pacific regions, has been a target for the ornamental trade, even though little is known about its population biology. Spatial and temporal patterns of abundance and size structure of A. typicus were studied in the Davao Gulf, the Philippines (125°42.7′E, 7°0.6′N), from February 2008 to December 2009. Specimens of A. typicus were associated with intertidal mangrove prop roots, seagrass meadows, sandy beaches, and shoals. Among prop roots, specimens were significantly smaller and had highest densities (131 ind. m−2) between November and March. High organic matter in sediment and a relatively low predation rate seemed to support juvenile life among mangroves. Size and density analyses provided evidence that individuals gradually move to seagrass, sandy habitats, and shoals as they age. Specimens were significantly larger at a shoal (maximum radius R = 81 mm). New recruits were found between August and November in both 2008 and 2009. Timing of recruitment and population size frequencies confirmed a seasonal reproductive cycle. Juveniles had relatively high growth rates (2–7 mm month−1) and may reach an R of 20–25 mm after 1 year. Growth rates of larger specimens (R > 30 mm) were generally <2 mm month−1. The activity pattern of A. typicus was related to the tidal phase and not to time of day: Specimens moved over the sediment surface during low tides and were burrowed during high tides possibly avoiding predation. This is one of the first studies to document an ontogenetic habitat shift for sea stars and provides new biological information as a basis for management of harvested A. typicus populations.

Communicated by J. P. Grassle.