Marine Biology

, Volume 120, Issue 1, pp 65–80 | Cite as

Comparative study of sub-cuticular bacteria in brittlestars (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea)

  • J. D. McKenzie
  • M. S. Kelly


Arm tissues from species of brittlestars from the British Isles and North America were examined by light and electron microscopy for the presence of sub-cuticular bacteria (SCB) which were recorded in 17 of the 19 species studied. Three major groups of SCB could be distinguished on the basis of their morphology. The bacterial morphology was not correlated with the host ecology but did appear to be related to the phylogeny of the hosts. Ophiuroids of the same genera had morphologically similar SCB and this was also generally true of species from the same family. This indicates the possibility of co-evolution between the SCB and their hosts. Estimates of SCB load were made for 9 of the species by direct counting and by quantifying the amount of bacterial endotoxin present in the host tissues. SCB numbers varied interspecifically from 3.7×108 to 4.6×109 SCB per gram of ash-free brittlestar arm tissue. Endotoxin values ranged from 5.97 to 285 μg g−1 ash-free arm tissue. Calculations suggest that SCB form at least 0.1 to 1% of the total biomass of the arm tissues. There was considerable intraspecific variation in SCB load. The possible role and significance of SCB is discussed.


Biomass Microscopy Electron Microscopy North America Total Biomass 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. D. McKenzie
    • 1
  • M. S. Kelly
    • 1
  1. 1.Scottish Association for Marine ScienceOban, ArgyllScotland

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