Common name: Basket star

Scientific name: Gorgonocephalus eucnemis

 

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Echinodermata

Class: Ophiuroidea

Order: Phrynophiurida

Family: Gorgonocephalidae

Genus: Gorgonocephalus

Species: G. eucnemis

 

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The Gorgonocephalus eucnemis or Basket star is a species of basket star that can be in length up to 14 cm across its disk and its arms 4-5 times the length of the disk. Its structure contains a large central disk with five pairs of arms that branch out into smaller subdivisions.

 

The habitat of the basket star could be in the Arctic ocean, northern parts of the Atlantic, and southern parts of the Pacific oceans. It mostly lives in deep rocky areas with strong currents. But it could also be found in mud and sandy seabeds among big rocks. Adult basket stars like to find small crevices in the rocky intertidal to hide in during the day, but then climb to an elevated point to feed at night.

 

Basket stars particularly feed on anything they can catch on their array of microscopic hooks on their arms like macroscopic zooplankton including chaetognaths. Basket stars eat by catching what the can with the hooks in their arms, bring it to their mouth where there is a comb-like structure that removes all prey and is then digested. They are known as filter feeders and have one-way digestion which means the mouth does the job of a mouth and of an anus.

 

Reproduction in Basket stars is done by two separate sexes that spawn planktonic larvae. They can also grow back their limbs if they happen to get chopped off. Like most other Echinodermata, they have tube feet and a water vascular system.

 

There isn’t too much that actually preys on Basket stars because they are difficult to spot; but don’t be fooled, they do have predators. Their main predators are fish and sea creatures like crabs. Research shows from some fish guts that there really isn’t too much to be eaten off of a Basket star, only really their arms.

 

Basket stars aren’t friends with all animals but they do have some relations with sponges and Gthe soft coral, Gersemia. In these relationships, the star and the host benefit from each other. The Basket stars will either hide underneath the sponge, or in canals or openings in the sponge. The star then gains protection but  is in return helping the sponge as they are usually seen sweeping over sponges removing large debris that can potentially clog up the sponges, and then consumes it. This gave the star another benefit - Food.

 

Micaila Ray

 

References – Lester B. Pearson College, http://www.racerocks.com/racerock/eco/taxalab/ensy02/moreblessingn.htm

 Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorgonocephalus_eucnemis