Marine Biology

, 165:140 | Cite as

Living under intertidal mussels: distribution, reproduction, and condition indices in a brooding sea star, Anasterias minuta, in Patagonia, Argentina

  • Damián G. GilEmail author
  • María B. Reartes
  • Carolina Mutti
  • Javier A. Tolosano
  • Héctor E. Zaixso
Original paper


Anasterias minuta is an abundant brooding sea star inhabiting tidepool habitats and mussel beds of Perumytilus purpuratus in Patagonia, Argentina. This study explores the influence of mussel bed complexity and tidal height on the size distribution of A. minuta living under mussel beds, and compares the abundance, reproduction, and condition indices in contrasting intertidal microhabitats (mussel hummocks and tidepools). Distribution patterns in mussel beds were explored at four sites along the coast of Argentina (45.4°S–47.4°S) during the austral spring, 2012/2017. Microhabitat comparisons were done at Caleta Cordova Norte between May 2004 and June 2005. Abundance inside mussel beds was correlated positively with mussel bed thickness and presence of mussel hummocks, and negatively with tidal height. Within mussel beds, early juveniles (recruits) and juveniles (greatest radius R < 15 mm) were generally restricted to low-tidal heights, while adults (R ≥ 15 mm) extended to mid-tidal levels. Sea stars were more abundant and larger in tidepools than under mussel beds. Numbers of recruits and juveniles increased significantly under mussel hummocks during austral spring and summer, coinciding with the release and subsequent growth of early juveniles. Brooding and gonadal cycles were synchronized between the microhabitats; however, the brooding cycle was nearly 2 months shorter under mussel hummocks (April–August) than in tidepools (April–October). The sea stars under mussels were smaller, had a less developed body wall, and greater gonadal production, indicating that more energy was allocated to reproduction compared to sea stars of similar size from tidepools. Further studies are needed to identify the specific environmental conditions that led to the observed adaptations and to understand the underlying physiological mechanisms.



We thank Alicia Boraso, Martin Varisco, Val Gerard, and two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments.


This study was partially supported by Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco. Project UNPSJB 955 (RN°127/2012).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

227_2018_3397_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (40 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 40 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Desarrollo Costero (IDC)Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco (UNPSJB)Comodoro RivadaviaArgentina
  2. 2.Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Ciencias de la Salud, Departamento de Biología y AmbienteUNPSJBComodoro RivadaviaArgentina
  3. 3.Institut des sciences de la mer de RimouskiUniversité du Québec à RimouskiRimouskiCanada

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