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Ophiopsila pantherina beds on subaqueous dunes off the Great Barrier Reef

Authors: Woolsey, E., Byrne, M., Webster, J.M., Williams, S., Pizarro, O., Thornborough, K., Davies, P., Beaman, R., Bridge, T.

Year: 2013

Publication: Johnson, C. (Ed.), Echinoderms in a Changing World: Proceedings of the 13th International Echinoderm Conference, January 5-9 2009, University of Tasmania, Hobart Tasmania, Australia. CRC Press/Balkema, Leiden, The Netherlands, pp. 175-179.

Abstract

An autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) was used to generate images of an Ophiopsila pantherina population on subaquous dunes at Hydrographers Passage, 200 km off the Australian mainland. High-resolution stereo images captured by the AUV were used to determine population structure of the aggregations, which consisted of adults at a mean density of 418 animals m2 at depths of 65-70 m.

Ophiopsila pantherina (8-15 mm dd) takes advantage of their elevated position on the lee side of the dunes for suspension feeding. On contact stimulation, the arms emit visible light as a bright green flash that travels down the arm. These aggregated ophiuroid communities in dune fields may be a specialized natural feature for consideration in managing common inter-reefal sandy habitats within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

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