Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 2, pp 307–314 | Cite as

Frequency of sublethal injury in a deepwater ophiuroid, Ophiacantha bidentata, an important component of western Atlantic Lophelia reef communities

  • R. Allen Brooks
  • Martha S. NizinskiEmail author
  • Steve W. Ross
  • Kenneth J. Sulak
Research Article


The occurrence and relative abundance of tissue (arm) regeneration in the ophiuroid, Ophiacantha bidentata (Retzius), was examined in individuals collected primarily among colonies of the deep-water coral Lophelia pertusa off the southeastern United States. Seven deep-water coral sites (384–756 m), located between Cape Lookout, NC, and Cape Canaveral, FL, were sampled in June 2004 using a manned submersible. The presence of regenerative tissue was evaluated by visual inspection of each individual ophiuroid, and the proportion of regenerating arms per individual was examined relative to size of individual, geographic location, and depth of collection. Ophiacantha bidentata, the dominant brittle star collected, commonly displayed signs of sublethal injury with over 60% of individuals displaying some evidence of regeneration. These levels of regeneration rival those reported for shallow-water ophiuroids. Larger individuals (>6.5 mm disc size) had a higher incidence of regeneration than smaller individuals. Size of individual and percent of regeneration were negatively correlated with depth. Although O. bidentata was significantly less abundant in southern versus northern sites, ophiuroid abundance did not appear to be influenced by amount or density of coral substratum. Presence of dense aggregations of O. bidentata indicates that they are an important component of the invertebrate assemblage associated with deep-water coral habitat especially in the northern part of the study area. Assuming that observed frequencies of injury and subsequent regeneration represent predation events then dense ophiuroid aggregations in deep-water coral habitats represent an important renewable trophic resource within these communities.


Spearman Rank Order Correlation Dense Aggregation Rocky Reef Disc Size Northern Site 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors gratefully acknowledge funding support provided by NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and the US Geological Survey Outer Continental Shelf Ecosystem Studies Program. Many persons assisted with field activities, including the scientific crew of the Life on the Edge II expedition and captain and crew of R/V Seward Johnson and DSRV Johnson Sea Link. D. Pawson, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, identified the ophiuroid. S. Stancyk provided information on O. sarsi. T. Munroe read earlier drafts of the manuscript and provided helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Allen Brooks
    • 1
    • 5
  • Martha S. Nizinski
    • 2
    Email author
  • Steve W. Ross
    • 3
    • 4
  • Kenneth J. Sulak
    • 1
  1. 1.Florida Integrated Science CenterU.S. Geological SurveyGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.NOAA/NMFS National Systematics LaboratorySmithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Center for Marine ScienceUniversity of North Carolina at WilmingtonWilmingtonUSA
  4. 4.Center for Coastal and Watershed StudiesUS Geological SurveySt. PetersburgUSA
  5. 5.ENSR CorporationSt. PetersburgUSA

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