Marine Biology

, Volume 111, Issue 1, pp 113–119 | Cite as

Digestive mechanics and gluttonous feeding in the feather starOligometra serripinna (Echinodermata: Crinoidea)

  • N. D. Holland
  • A. B. Leonard
  • D. L. Meyer


The movement and digestion of food in the gut ofOligometra serripinna (Carpenter) were studied at Lizard Island (14°38′42″S; 145°27′10″E) in the austral winter of 1986. Feather stars in the laboratory were fed a brief, small meal of brine shrimp nauplii and killed at increasing time intervals thereafter. Histological reconstructions showed that the ingested nauplii progressed along the digestive tract surprisingly quickly. Some nauplii were found in the mid and hind intestine in only 30 min, and all of the nauplii had reached the hind intestine and rectum in 1 h. Digestion of the nauplii had started at 1 h, and only a few fragments of naupliar exoskeleton remained in the hind intestine and rectum 5 h after the start of feeding. Videotape analysis showed that no fecal pellets were released during this experiment. In the natural environment ofO. serripinna, ingested particles may similarly be transported quickly to the hind part of the gut and digested there — when feather stars were fixed in the field, most of the gut contents were found in the hind intestine and rectum.O. serripinna, which efficiently rejects inert particles before they are ingested, usually defecates infrequently (probably not more than once over a span of many hours) and differs from some other feather stars that ingest numerous inert particles and defecate much more frequently. When specimens ofO. serripinna were fed continuously on brine shrimp nauplii,Artemia sp. (San Francisco strain), in the laboratory, the feather stars fed gluttonously, packing their guts with several hundred nauplii in 1 to 2 h. Thereafter, superfluous feeding began (i.e., further ingestions appeared to force undigested nauplii, some of them still living, out of the anus). These observations suggest thatO. serripinna usually feeds at relatively modest rates in its natural habitat, but can feed gluttonously to take advantage of infrequent patches of highly concentrated, nutritious particles (e.g. copepod swarms, migrating demersal zooplankton, and invertebrate gametes from mass spawnings). It is likely that such patches of nutritious particles are usually small enough to drift out of reach of the feather stars before gluttonous feeding proceeds to superfluous feeding. Opportunities for superfluous feeding in nature are probably very infrequent (e.g. ingestion of coral gametes and embryos after a mass spawning), and the feather stars evidently have no behavior that stops further ingestions after the gut becomes filled to capacity.


Digestive Tract Fecal Pellet Inert Particle Austral Winter Increase Time Interval 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. D. Holland
    • 1
  • A. B. Leonard
    • 1
  • D. L. Meyer
    • 2
  1. 1.Marine Biology Research Division, A-002Scripps Institution of OceanographyLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Geology DepartmentUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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