, Volume 76, Issue 3, pp 313–320 | Cite as

Host selection and host switching in Gymnolophus obscura – a symbiotic ophiuroid associated with feather stars (Crinoidea: Comatulida)

  • E. S. MekhovaEmail author
  • A. V. Martynov
  • T. A. Britayev


The present paper aims to assess the host-selectivity and host-switching behaviour of the comatulid associated ophiuroid Gymnolohpus obscura. The relationships between size-structure, distribution and infestation characteristics of G. obscura were assessed among all available feather star species in the Bay of Nhatrang, Vietnam, together with the frequency of injuries among symbiont size classes. Our data show that despite the fairly wide host distribution ranges, not all of them are equally infested by G. obscura, likely because of host morphology, size and location on the substrate. The most preferred hosts were the comatulids Comaster nobilis and Comanthus parvicirrus, which were preferably infested by larger symbionts. The highest frequency of injuries was found in symbionts with disks ranging from 0.6 to1 cm in diameter, tracing a host-to-host migration behaviour leading to a sharp fall in abundance in the 1.1–1.5 cm size class. Our results suggest that host-switching (either between the same or among different host species) is a characteristic behaviour of G. obscura, driven by either intraspecific competition and/or by searching for more favourable trophic or protective conditions.


Symbiosis Host specify South China Sea Crinobionts Intraspecific interactions 



The authors would like to thank the administration and staff of the Coastal Branch of the Russian-Vietnam Tropical Center for their help in organizing and conducting field studies, Dr. P. Dgebuadze, O. Savinkin, Yu. Deart for their help and collaborative work in the field and in the laboratory, and Dr. V.N. Mikheev for fruitful discussion of the manuscript. We are also grateful to two anonymous reviewers and the editor for their useful comments and text corrections. Material processing and preparation of the manuscript were supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research; project no. 18-05-00459. This study was also supported by a research project of MSU Zoological Museum (AAAA-A16-116021660077-3, depository of specimens) and The Russian Science Foundation (grant 14-50-00029, morphological and taxonomic study).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. S. Mekhova
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. V. Martynov
    • 2
  • T. A. Britayev
    • 1
  1. 1.A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution RASMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Zoological Museum Moscow State UniversityMoscowRussia

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