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On the occurrence of Coronaster briareus (Echinodermata, Forcipulatida, Asteriidae) in the Mediterranean Sea

Abstract

The sea star Coronaster briareus (Verrill Am J Sci (Ser III), 1882) is reported for the first time from the Mediterranean Sea. A total of 26 individuals were sighted in Maltese waters during ROV surveys made in July 2015 and June–July 2016. The identity of the species was confirmed through morphological examination of a specimen collected in June 2016. This identification is discussed in the light of inconsistencies in the published descriptions of species of Coronaster recorded from the Atlantic, and of individuals belonging to this genus recorded from the eastern Atlantic and whose coloration does not match that of C. briareus or C. volsellatus (the only species of Coronaster hitherto known from the Atlantic). The presence of numerous individuals of C. briareus in Maltese waters, recorded on two occasions a year apart over a relatively large area, indicates that there is an established population. This represents a considerable expansion of the distribution range of this species, which is mostly known from the western Atlantic. Possible reasons for its presence in Maltese waters are discussed, but the dynamics of the occurrence of C. briareus in the central Mediterranean remain unknown.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the crew of the Oceana Ranger for their assistance with the ROV surveys, Jorge Blanco (Oceana, Madrid) for help with plotting the map in Fig. 4, and Marija Sciberras (Bangor University, Wales) for supplying us with some hard-to-find literature. We are grateful to Marco Taviani and Lorenzo Angeletti [Institute of Marine Sciences - National Research Council (ISMAR-CNR), Italy] for providing us with the multibeam data shown in Fig. 4, which was collected during the MEDCOR cruise aboard the R/V Urania as part of the EU HERMES (EC FP6 contract number GOCE-CT-2005-511234-1) and HERMIONE (EC FP7 contract number 226354) programmes. The present work was undertaken as part of the LIFE BaHAR for N2K (LIFE12 NAT/MT/000845) Project, which is 50% cofinanced by the EU LIFE+ Funding Programme and implemented by the Maltese Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), the University of Malta, Fundación Oceana, the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change (MSDEC), and the Department for Fisheries and Aquaculture within MSDEC. We are also grateful to ERA and to the Continental Shelf Department within the Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure (Malta) for granting us the necessary permits to undertake the marine surveys.

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Evans, J., Knittweis, L., Aguilar, R. et al. On the occurrence of Coronaster briareus (Echinodermata, Forcipulatida, Asteriidae) in the Mediterranean Sea. Mar Biodiv 48, 1381–1390 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12526-016-0617-8

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Keywords

  • Deep sea
  • Malta
  • Newcomer
  • Range expansion
  • ROV
  • Sicily channel