Biology of the basket star Gorgonocephalus caputmedusae (L.)
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- Rosenberg, R., Dupont, S., Lundälv, T. et al. Marine Biology (2005) 148: 43. doi:10.1007/s00227-005-0032-3
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Ophiurid basket stars belonging to the family Gorgonocephalidae are distributed from the Arctic to the Antarctic and from the shallow subtidal to the deep sea, but their biology remains poorly known. In situ observations at the mouth of the Oslofjord by a remotely operated vehicle showed that Gorgonocephalus caputmedusae had a patchy distribution at 85 to 120 m water depth and frequently occurred in association with the gorgonian Paramuricea placomus and the coral Lophelia pertusa. Morphological and histological studies show that G. caputmedusae is well adapted to capture macroplanktonic prey. Histological examination of the arms revealed the presence of a thick layer of dermal mutable connective tissue which is probably an energy-efficient way to maintain its feeding posture against the current. This layer is connected to the nerve cord suggesting that the passive mechanical properties (stiffness) is controlled by the nervous system. In the distal parts of the arms, each segment has a pair of sticky tube feet and a sophisticated system of spines and hooks, which are connected to muscles and collagenous tendons. In combination, these features were shown, in an experimental flume study, to be used for capturing the locally abundant krill species Meganyctiphanes norvegica. This is the first documentation of G. caputmedusae of this kind.