Marine Biology

, Volume 154, Issue 6, pp 933–941 | Cite as

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

  • J. Ashley T. BoothEmail author
  • Henry A. Ruhl
  • Lawrence L. Lovell
  • David M. Bailey
  • Kenneth L. SmithJr
Original Paper


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 Ophiacanthacosmica, 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.


Particulate Organic Carbon Sediment Trap Disk Diameter Otter Trawl Export Flux 
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 wish to express our appreciation to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Benthic Invertebrate Collection for access to material. Authors also thank Cathy Groves of the Echinoderm Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History for assistance in facilitating the loan of a considerable amount of material. The taxonomic identifications and systematic guidance provided by Michael A. Kyte (Entrix: Environmental and Natural Resource Management Consultants) and Gordon L. Hendler (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) regarding the scarcer ophiuroid species was invaluable. We thank Lynn Lauerman and Jane Chung for assisting in disk diameter measurements and Megan Lilly (City of San Diego, Metropolitan Wastewater Department) for initial taxonomic assistance, and Mati Kahru and Ron Kaufmann for their assistance in processing the satellite data used in the POC flux composite. This paper is dedicated to John S. Tomer. Research was conducted primarily at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and funded by National Science Foundation grants, OCE89-22620, OCE92-17334, OCE98-07103, OCE11-02385 and OCE02-42472 to KLS, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Supplementary material

227_2008_982_MOESM1_ESM.doc (926 kb)
ESM (DOC 925 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Ashley T. Booth
    • 1
    Email author
  • Henry A. Ruhl
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lawrence L. Lovell
    • 4
  • David M. Bailey
    • 5
  • Kenneth L. SmithJr
    • 3
  1. 1.Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford UniversityPacific GroveUSA
  2. 2.National Oceanography CentreOcean Biogeochemistry & Ecosystems (DEEPSEAS Group)SouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Monterey Bay Aquarium Research InstituteMoss LandingUSA
  4. 4.Marine Biology LaboratoryCounty Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles CountyCarsonUSA
  5. 5.Faculty of Life and Biomedical SciencesUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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