Marine Biology

, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 55–62 | Cite as

Unusual lecithotrophic development of the caribbean brittle star Ophiothrix oerstedi

  • P. V. Mladenov


The ophiuroid Ophiothrix oerstedi Lütken spawned in the laboratory at Barbados, West Indies, from August, 1975 until early December. The embryo passes through a wrinkled blastula stage, and the larva is a reduced lecithotrophic ophiopluteus with a shortened pelagic existence. A larva of this type is unusual for brittle stars in general and unique for ophiothricids for which development has been described. Metamorphosis is completed 4.3 days (24° to 27°C) after fertilization with a single pair of ciliated larval arms, the postero-lateral arms, being retained as a swimming device for the late larva. Settlement, with subsequent separation of the postero-lateral arms from the young brittle-star, begins as early as 4.5 days, but can be delayed for at least one week, at the end of which time midwater separation can occur resulting in the pelagic dispersal of post-larvae. A comparison of gametic and larval characteristics of O. oerstedi with the literature suggests that the larva of this species is most closely allied to the abbreviated developers. The adaptive significance of this larval form is discussed.


Brittle Adaptive Significance Single Pair Larval Form Subsequent Separation 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. V. Mladenov
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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