Tiffany's Brittlestar home page
Brittlestar Home Page
My name is Tiffany and I am a graduate student working on my favorite animals,
Brittlestars are a group of marine organisms in the phylum Echinodermata. They generally
have a central disc and 5 arms which they will autotomize (break off) quite easily
when disturbed. Regeneration of arms is rapid. There are about 2000 current species
I am studying a brittlestar Ophiophragmus filograneus
which lives in bays and estuaries of Florida but is not found in the Gulf of Mexico.
Because it has been found in salinities as low as 7.7 ppt, it is thought to have the
lowest salinity tolerance af any echinoderm in the world. Normal seawater salinity is
about 30-35 ppt. but for some reason (or maybe a combination
of reasons), O. filograneus does not live in full strength seawater like other
brittlestars. The selective pressures that push them to live in lower salinities could be
to escape predation, finding the right habitat substratum to burrow in, or competition
with other species; no-one is sure yet. But the fact that they have created a niche in
an area where few or no other echinoderms have been able to do is quite impressive.
I am testing howO. filograneus functions physiologically at low
salinities by testing their respiration rates, excretion rates, and arm regeneration
rates at three different salinities. Should be fun!!
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