Marine Biology

, Volume 154, Issue 6, pp 1077–1084 | Cite as

A laboratory study of behavioral interactions of the Antarctic keystone sea star Odontaster validus with three sympatric predatory sea stars

  • James B. McClintockEmail author
  • Robert A. Angus
  • Christina Ho
  • Charles D. Amsler
  • Bill J. Baker
Original Paper


The circumpolar sea star Odontaster validus is ubiquitous in the nearshore marine benthos of Antarctica. Despite its ecological importance, little is known of its behavioral interactions with other common sympatric sea stars. To examine these interactions we employed time-lapse video analyses conducted in a large laboratory tank (1.8 m diameter circular tank, 1,629 L). In each experimental trial, 34 adult O. validus were placed in a tight circular grouping on one side of the tank, and one adult individual of one of three common sympatric species of predatory sea star (Labidiaster annulatus, Diplasterias brandti, or Perknaster aurorae) was placed on the opposite side of the tank. Digital images of sea star movements were then captured at one min intervals over a 24 h period and aspects of sea star movements subsequently analyzed. Each 24 h treatment was replicated three times, as was a control treatment consisting only of O. validus. O. validus had significantly elevated levels of activity in the presence of P. aurorae when compared with the other two sea stars (potential chemically mediated response), and displayed a distinct “flight response” (change in direction and twofold to sixfold increase of speed) upon tactile contact with this species. Moreover, an “alarm response” was detected when individuals of O. validus that encountered a fleeing conspecific also fled the vicinity. In contrast, our results indicated that O. validus displays virtually no chemical or tactile behavioral responses to the large multi-armed L. annulatus and only weak tactile responses to D. brandti.


Initial Speed Flight Response Western Antarctic Peninsula Alarm Response Macroinvertebrate Prey 
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.



We wish to thank Margaret Amsler, Craig Aumack, and Philip Bucolo for assistance with field collections of sea stars. Isidro Bosch provided valuable assistance with taxonomy. We also wish to acknowledge the generous logistical support of those individuals employed by Raytheon Polar Services Company, especially Curt Smith and Christina Hammock who kindly provided assistance with video technology. This research was facilitated by National Science Foundation awards to CDA and JBM (OPP-0442769) and to BJB (OPP-0442857). This research was also supported by an Endowed Professorship in Polar and Marine Biology to JBM through the University of Alabama at Birmingham.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • James B. McClintock
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert A. Angus
    • 1
  • Christina Ho
    • 1
  • Charles D. Amsler
    • 1
  • Bill J. Baker
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry and Center for Molecular Diversity in Drug Design, Discovery and DeliveryUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA

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