A new study published in the journal Coral Reefs last week explains that an invasive species of brittle star, Ophiothela mirabilis (yellow brittle star), resident of the Pacific Ocean, has now been found in the Atlantic, most likely as a result of shipping.
The yellow brittle star has six rays and reproduces asexually by splitting itself in two and regenerating the missing parts, so the population has the ability to increase rapidly.
It gathers on corals and sponges and therefore could alter both the appearance and the ecology of Atlantic coral reef habitats. Scientists know little about its biology so the full extent of its impact is unknown.
“I imagine that when my grandchildren learn to scuba dive, Caribbean reefs will look very different than they do today, in part because many corals and sponges may be covered with a network of invasive yellow brittle stars,” said co-author Dr. Gordon Hendler of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
You can find the full report in Coral Reefs here: Epizoic Ophiothela brittle stars have invaded the Atlantic.
Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC.