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SS.SMx.CMx.OphMx
Ophiothrix fragilis and/or Ophiocomina nigra brittlestar beds on sublittoral mixed sediment

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Habitat (physical) description

Distribution

 Salinity: Full (30-35 ppt) 
 Wave exposure: Moderately exposed, Sheltered 
 Tidal streams: Strong (3-6 kn), Moderately strong (1-3 kn), Weak (>1 kn) 
 Substratum: Mixed sediment, often with cobbles and pebbles 
 Zone: Circalittoral 
 Depth Band: 5-10 m, 10-20 m, 20-30 m, 30-50 m 
 Other Features:  

Download comparative physical and biological data. The comparative tables enable a rapid comparison of the species composition and principal physical characteristics between a given set of biotopes.
Distribution of habitat SS.SMx.CMx.OphMx  Ophiothrix fragilis and/or Ophiocomina nigra brittlestar beds on sublittoral mixed sediment
Distribution of habitat SS.SMx.CMx.OphMx Ophiothrix fragilis and/or Ophiocomina nigra brittlestar beds on sublittoral mixed sediment, based on records on the UK Marine Recorder database and EUSeaMap. Red dots represent records on which the biotope is based. Blue dots show other certain records, black dots show records tentatively assigned to this biotope. Yellow areas show level 2 and 3 sublittoral and deep-sea habitats prediced by EUSeaMap within UK waters.

Biotope description

Circalittoral sediment dominated by brittlestars (hundreds or thousands m-2) forming dense beds, living epifaunally on boulder, gravel or sedimentary substrata. Ophiothrix fragilis and Ophiocomina nigra are the main bed-forming species, with rare examples formed by Ophiopholis aculeate. Brittlestar beds vary in size, with the largest extending over hundreds of square metres of sea floor and containing millions of individuals. They usually have a patchy internal structure, with localized concentrations of higher animal density. Ophiothrix fragilis or Ophiocomina nigra may dominate separately or there may be mixed populations of the two species. Ophiothrix beds may consist of large adults and tiny, newly-settled juveniles, with animals of intermediate size living in nearby rock habitats or among sessile epifauna. Unlike brittlestar beds on rock, the sediment based beds may contain a rich associated epifauna (Warner, 1971; Allain, 1974; Davoult & Gounin, 1995). Large suspension feeders such as the octocoral Alcyonium digitatum, the anemone Metridium senile and the hydroid Nemertesia antennina are present mainly on rock outcrops or boulders protruding above the brittlestar-covered substratum. The large anemone Urticina feline may be quite common. This species lives half-buried in the substratum but is not smothered by the brittlestars, usually being surrounded by a 'halo' of clear space (Brun, 1969; Warner, 1971). Large mobile animals commonly found on Ophiothrix beds include the starfish Asterias rubens, Crossaster papposus and Luidia ciliaris, the urchins Echinus esculentus and Psammechinus miliaris, edible crabs Cancer pagurus, swimming crabs Necora puber, Liocarcinus spp., and hermit crabs Pagurus bernhardus. The underlying sediments also contain a diverse infauna including the bivalve Abra alba. Warner (1971) found that numbers and biomass of sediment dwelling animals were not significantly reduced under dense brittlestar patches.

Situation

No situation data available.

Temporal variation

No temporal data available.

Similar biotopes

Not applicable or unknown.

Characterising Species

Taxa Frequency Typical Abundance % Contribution to similarity Abundance (no.2)
Alcyonium digitatum O 7
Urticina felina O 8
Pomatoceros triqueter F 3
Pagurus bernhardus O 2
Crossaster papposus O 2
Asterias rubens O 4
Ophiothrix fragilis A 56
Ophiocomina nigra F 8
Echinus esculentus O 2
Corallinaceae F 1

Example photographs of biotope

No characteristic photos currently available. If you are able to provide a photograph of this biotope please contact .


Version 15.03 of the classification adds a deep-sea section to version 04.05; therefore superseding version 04.05, 97.06 and 03.02.

This online classification should be cited as:

JNCC (2015) The Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland Version 15.03 [Online]. [Date accessed]. Available from: jncc.defra.gov.uk/MarineHabitatClassification

Information from the shallower section (up to sublittoral sediment, taken from Version 04.05) be cited as the report accompanying Version 04.05, as follows:

CONNOR, D.W., J.H. ALLEN, N.GOLDING, K.L.HOWELL, L.M. LIEBERKNECHT, K.O. NORTHEN AND J.B. REKER (2004) The Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland Version 04.05. In: JNCC (2015) The Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland Version 15.03 [Online]. [Date accessed].
Available from: jncc.defra.gov.uk/MarineHabitatClassification
ISBN 1 861 07561 8


Information from the deep-sea section (added in March 2015) should be cited as the report accompanying the deep-sea section, as follows:

PARRY, M.E.V., K.L. HOWELL, B.E. NARAYANASWAMY, B.J. BETT, D.O.B. JONES, D.J. HUGHES, N. PIECHAUD, T.D. NICKELL, H. ELLWOOD, N. ASKEW, C. JENKINS and E. MANCA (2015) A Deep-sea Section for the Marine Habitat Classification of Britain and Ireland. JNCC report 530. In: JNCC (2015) The Marine Habitat Classification for Britain and Ireland Version 15.03 [Online]. [Date accessed].
Available from: jncc.defra.gov.uk/MarineHabitatClassification
ISSN 0963 8901