Class - Ophiuroidea

(Basketstars & Brittlestars)



Ophiuroidea contains two large clades, Ophiurida (brittle stars) and Euryalida (basket stars). Many of the ophiuroids are rarely encountered in the relatively shallow depths normally visited by humans, but they are a diverse group. Brittle starfish are echinoderms, closely related to sea stars. They crawl across the sea-floor using their flexible arms as "legs" for locomotion. The ophiuroids generally have five long slender, whip-like arms which may reach up to 60 centimeters (2 feet) in length on the largest specimens.


Ophiuroids can be found in all of the major marine provinces, from the poles to the tropics. In fact, crinoids, holothurians, and ophiuroids rule the floor of the deep oceans at depths below 500 m. Basket stars usually confined to the deeper parts of this range. Ophiuroids are known even from abyssal (>6000 m) depths. Brittle stars are also common members of reef communities, where they hide under rocks and even within other living organisms. A few ophiuroid species can even tolerate brackish water, an ability otherwise almost unknown among echinoderms.