Ophiopteris papillosa (Lyman, 1875)

Common name(s): Flat-spined brittle star

Phylum Echinodermata
 Class Ophiuroidea
  Order Ophiurida
   Suborder Gnathophiurina
    Family Ophiocomidae
Ophiopteris papillosa from Royal Palm State Beach, Long Beach, CA
(Photo by: Dave Cowles, April 1997)
Description:  This brittle star has entire upper arm plates (they are not broken up into many small plates), 5-7 large, blunt, flattened arm spines per vertical row (All spines are flat and blunt). The upper arm spines are very short and the lower spines are much longer.  They have 15-20 tooth papillae and 2-3 teeth per jaw and 3-5 oral papillae per half-jaw, knobs and papillae covering the disc and radial shields, 2 genital slits per interradius, and 1 flat tentacle scale per podial pore.  Disk diameter to 45 mm, arm length 3-4.5 times disk diameter.  Usually deep chocolate-brown in intertidal, with bands on the arms; lighter subtidally and with regenerating animals.

How to Distinguish from Similar Species:

Geographical Range: Barkley Sound, Vancouver Island to Isla Cedros, Baja California

Depth Range: Low intertidal to 140 m depth.  This species is said to be only subtidal in the Pacific Northwest, but can be found fairly commonly in the low intertidal in southern California.

Habitat: Under rocks and in algal holdfasts

Biology/Natural History: This species is sometimes associated with the purple urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus.  In aquaria, raise arms and extend tube feet.  Capture suspended material on spines and tube feet, pass it down to the mouth via the tube feet.  Also may feed by grasping small prey or meat in a loop of the arm and bringing it to the jaws by bending the arm ventrally.

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Dichotomous Keys:
  Allen, 1976
  Kozloff 1987, 1996 (not in key)
  Smith and Carlton, 1975

General References:
  Brandon and Rokop, 1985
  Lambert and Austin, 2007
  Morris et al., 1980
  Ricketts et al., 1985

Scientific Articles:

General Notes and Observations:  Locations, abundances, unusual behaviors:

Authors and Editors of Page:
Dave Cowles (2005):  Created original page