Date of this Version
11 April 2006 / Accepted: 28 March 2007 / Published online: 24 April 2007 Springer-Verlag 2007
The occurrence and relative abundance of tissue (arm) regeneration in the ophiuroid, Ophiacantha bidentata (Retzius), was examined in individuals collected primarily among colonies of the deep-water coral Lophelia pertusa off the southeastern United States. Seven deep-water coral sites (384–756 m), located between Cape Lookout, NC, and Cape Canaveral, FL, were sampled in June 2004 using a manned submersible. The presence of regenerative tissue was evaluated by visual inspection of each individual ophiuroid, and the proportion of regenerating arms per individual was examined relative to size of individual, geographic location, and depth of collection. Ophiacantha bidentata, the dominant brittle star collected, commonly displayed signs of sublethal injury with over 60% of individuals displaying some evidence of regeneration. These levels of regeneration rival those reported for shallow-water ophiuroids. Larger individuals (>6.5 mm disc size) had a higher incidence of regeneration than smaller individuals. Size of individual and percent of regeneration were negatively correlated with depth. Although O. bidentata was significantly less abundant in southern versus northern sites, ophiuroid abundance did not appear to be influenced by amount or density of coral substratum. Presence of dense aggregations of O. bidentata indicates that they are an important component of the invertebrate assemblage associated with deep-water coral habitat especially in the northern part of the study area. Assuming that observed frequencies of injury and subsequent regeneration represent predation events then dense ophiuroid aggregations in deepwater coral habitats represent an important renewable trophic resource within these communities.