any other local ophiuroid,
the rays of the basket star branch repeatedly dichotomously.
central disk is covered with a loose-fitting skin with a dark brown
between the bases of the rays and a pinkish color, more similar to the
ray color, near the ray bases. Actual color may be variable
tan, beige, orange-red, and pink to almost white; but the central disk
is usually darker than the rays.
Gorgonocephalus eucnemis Muller and
Common name(s): Basket star
|(Gorgonocephalus eucnemis found
subtidally at Sares Head.
Diameter approximately 30 cm)
|(Photo by: Dave Cowles
How to Distinguish from
Similar Species: There
are no other basket stars in the Rosario area.
Range: Bering Sea to
Laguna Beach, CA, East Siberian Sea, Chukchi Sea, Japan, North Atlantic
down to Massachusetts, Faeroe Islands.
Depth Range: Subtidal,
10 m to nearly
2000 m, most commonly 15-150 m.
on rocky bottoms
with moderate to strong currents. Sometimes on sandy or muddy
which have projecting boulders, sea fans, or sea pens.
History: One of the
largest known ophiuroids, it can have a diameter of up to half a
It feeds on suspended particles by spreading its rays out like a fan,
mostly perpendicular to the current. Macroscopic zooplankton
as copepods, chaetognaths, and jellyfish are caught by microscopic
on the rays. The fine branchlet tips (see
picture) then curl around the object and slowly move it
mouth (exact method is unclear). The prey of basket star
is said to range up to 3 cm (just over an inch) in size, and most
stars capture prey mainly at night but may retain their prey until
to actually feed on them. Mucus may also help to immobilize
This species has also been reported to feed on the small benthic sea
This species seems to have a strong co-occurrence with the
rubiformis. In Puget Sound, Gorgonocephalus
have been reported within the pharynges of Gersemia
they appear to develop and apparently feed. The young do not
the Gersemia until their rays are long enough to
and Fairbanks 1966
et al. 1980
and Laurent, 1979
and Austin, 2007
General Notes and
abundances, unusual behaviors: We most frequently observe
star on rocky bottoms, in areas of high current, and on an elevated
such as the top of a boulder or underwater hillock where it is fully
to the current. The species is highly active, writhing its
all directions like an animated bush. It almost always has
of the rays curled into tiny loops for catching prey.
This species does not usually do well in an aquarium, even
seawater. If lifted from the water it tends to get a bubble
oral cavity, which rises up under the skin and makes the animal
It then floats helplessly around the tank until the bubble is carefully
released. Even if handled carefully it should not be kept in
tank for more than a few days because it quickly begins dropping rays,
starting at the tips, and will soon die if not returned to the sea.
This species is common subtidally along Sares Head
A closer view of the animal's disk. Picture by Dave Cowles,
This individual was photographed July 2001 by Dave Cowles.
off Sares Head.
individual was photographed in the display tank at Friday Harbor Labs.
Many of the arm tips are missing, as is common in individuals
basket star is much larger than most local brittle star species, as can
be seen in this individual which covers the bottom of a 5-gallon
bucket. Photo by Dave Cowles, July 2012
stars frequently wave their arms around like a writhing bush.
see a video of this action in the basket star above, click here.
Authors and Editors of Page:
Dave Cowles (2004): Created original page