In-situ investigations on the echinodermAsterias rubens as a predator of soft-bottom communities in the western Baltic Sea

  • K. Anger
  • U. Rogal
  • G. Schriever
  • C. Valentin


In-situ investigations on the life of the common sea star (Asterias rubens L.) were carried out in 1976, employing the Underwater Laboratory “Helgoland“ in Lübeck Bay (Western Baltic Sea). The abundance ofA. rubens amounted to 2–31 m−2 on sediment (fine sand), and to 324–809 m−2 on mobile algal carpets drifting over the bottom. Actual population parameters (abundance, size class distribution) are influenced by both substrate quality and drifting. Stomach investigations revealed prey-size selectivity: Small sea stars feed mainly on the snailHydrobia ulvae when living on the sediment, but on mussel brood(Mytilus edulis) in the phytal. The principal food items of larger sea stars are the sand-dwelling clamMacoma baltica and the phytal-living isopodIdotea baltica respectively.A. rubens is very adaptive to the food available; the diversity of its diet corresponds to the species diversity found in its environment. A change of biotope during active or passive migrations causes switching. The sea star is able to catch motile animals and to dig out infaunal clams. It exhibits a diurnal feeding pattern related to light periodicity; the activity decreases at night. The average frequency of feeding is highly dependent on predator body size; it declines with growth. In-situ experiments indicate an exponential relationship between the feeding duration uponM. baltica and the quotient of clam size to logarithm of sea-star size. An approach is made toward a rough estimate of macrofauna consumption byA. rubens on sediment. The sea star seems to be an important predator and thus a competitor of demersal fishes on soft bottoms of the western Baltic Sea.

Literature cited

  1. Arntz, W. E., 1971. Biomasse und Produktion des Makrobenthos in den tieferen Teilen der Kieler Bucht im Jahr 1968. Kieler Meeresforsch.27, 36–72.Google Scholar
  2. —— & Brunswig, D., 1975. An approach to estimating the production of macrobenthos and demersal fish in a Western BalticAbra alba community. Merentutkimuslait. Havsforsk. Inst. Skr. Helsingfors239, 195–205.Google Scholar
  3. Brun, E., 1968. Extreme population density of the starfishAsterias rubens L. on a bed of Iceland scallop,Chlamys islandica (O. F. Müller). Astarte32, 1–4.Google Scholar
  4. Bull, H. O., 1934. Aquarium observations on the rate of growth and enemies of the common star-fish,Asterias rubens L. Rep. Dove mar. Lab. (Ser. 3)2, 60–65.Google Scholar
  5. Feder, H. & Møller Christensen, A., 1966. Aspects of Asteroid biology In: Physiology of Echinodermata. Ed. by R. A. Boolootian. Interscience Publs., New York, 87–127.Google Scholar
  6. Finnish IBP-PM Group 1969. Quantitative sampling equipment for the littoral benthos. Int. Revue ges. Hydrobiol.54, 185–193.Google Scholar
  7. Galtsoff, P. S. & Loosanoff, V. L., 1939. Natural history and method of controlling the starfish (Asterias forbesi). Bull. Bur. Fish. Wash.49, 73–132.Google Scholar
  8. Hancock, D. A., 1955. The feeding behaviour of starfish on Essex oyster beds. J. mar. biol. Ass. U.K.34, 313–331.Google Scholar
  9. —— 1958. Notes on starfish on an Essex oyster bed. J. mar. biol. Ass. U.K.37, 565–589.Google Scholar
  10. Hatanaka, M. & Kosaka, M., 1959. Biological studies on the population of the starfish,Asterias amurensis, in Sendai Bay. Tohoku J. agric. Res.4, 159–178.Google Scholar
  11. Kowalski, R., 1955. Untersuchungen zur Biologie des SeesternsAsterias rubens L. in Brackwasser. Kieler Meeresforsch.11, 201–213.Google Scholar
  12. Kühlmorgen-Hille, G., 1965. Qualitative und quantitative Veränderungen der Bodenfauna der Kieler Bucht in den Jahren 1953–1965. Kieler Meeresforsch.21, 167–191.Google Scholar
  13. Loosanoff, V. L., 1958. Underwater studies of starfish behavior and evaluation of control methods. Bull. Biol. Lab., Milford22 (4), 1–5.Google Scholar
  14. Muus, B. J., 1967. The fauna of Danish estuaries and lagoons. Meddr. Danm. Fisk. -og Havunders.5, 1–316.Google Scholar
  15. Paine, R. T., 1976. Size-limited predation: an observational and experimental approach with theMytilus-Pisaster interaction. Ecology57, 858–873.Google Scholar
  16. Rogal, U., Anger, K., Schriever, G. & Valentin, C. Quantitative macrobenthos studies in Lübeck Bay (western Baltic Sea). Helgoländer wiss. Meeresunters. (in press).Google Scholar
  17. Schulz, S., 1969. Das Makrobenthos der südlichen Beltsee (Mecklenburger Bucht und angrenzende Seegebiete). Beitr. Meeresk.26, 21–46.Google Scholar
  18. Smith, G. F. M., 1940. Factors limiting distribution and size in the starfish. J. Fish. Res. Bd Can.5, 84–103.Google Scholar
  19. Spärck, R., 1932. On the capability of migration of adult individuals ofAsterias rubens. Rep. Dan. biol. Stn.37, 65–68.Google Scholar
  20. Thorson, G., 1957. Bottom communities. In: Treatise on marine ecology and paleoecology. Ed. by J. W. Hedgpeth. Geol. Soc. Am., New York,1, 461–534. (Mem. geol. Soc. Am.67.)Google Scholar
  21. —— 1958. Parallel level-bottom communities, their temperature adaptation, and their “balance” between predators and food animals. In: Perspectives in marine biology. Ed. by A. A. Buzzati-Traverso. Univ. Calif. Press, Berkeley, 67–86.Google Scholar
  22. —— 1964. Light as an ecological factor in the dispersal and settlement of larvae of marine bottom invertebrates. Ophelia1, 167–208.Google Scholar
  23. Tortonese, E., 1963. Differenziazone geografica e superspecie nel genereAsterias (Echinodermata). Monit. zool. ital.70–71, 212–221.Google Scholar
  24. Yoshida, M., 1966. Photosensitivity. In: Physiology of Echinodermata. Ed. by R. A. Boolootian. Interscience Publs., New York, 435–464.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Biologischen Anstalt Helgoland 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Anger
    • 1
  • U. Rogal
    • 2
  • G. Schriever
    • 2
  • C. Valentin
    • 2
  1. 1.Biologische Anstalt Helgoland (Meeresstation)Helgoland
  2. 2.Zoologisches InstitutUniversität KielKielFederal Republic of Germany

Personalised recommendations