Biology and Ecological Functioning

In the coastal waters of the British Isles, dense brittlestar aggregations are a widespread and prominent feature of the benthic environment and have attracted the attention of marine ecologists since their existence was first recognized at the turn of the century (Allen, 1899). The most detailed studies of the ecology of bed-forming brittlestars have been carried out in the English Channel, but there is no reason to believe that those in other regions will behave differently. This chapter will review what is known of the ecology, behaviour and life cycles of brittlestars in subtidal aggregations, the non-brittlestar fauna associated with these beds, and the effects of brittlestar beds on the local marine environment.

Ecology of Bed-Forming Brittlestars

Associated Fauna

Interaction with the Local Marine Environment