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Free Content Niche separation in three species of Ophiocoma (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea) in Jamaica, West Indies

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The brittle-stars Ophiocoma wendtii, O. echinata and O. pumila occur under rubble and in crevices in coral heads shoreward of the reef crest. To determine if the three species differed in use of resources, the sizes of crevice openings used were measured, feeding methods and behavior were observed, and stomach contents examined. The three species were found to use crevices of different sizes, which in part may be a function of their difference in size: but size alone is unlikely to be the reason for the use of such large crevices by O. wendtii. All three species were observed to suspension- and deposit-feed, but differed in the degree to which they exposed themselves, and in the feeding areas used in relation to their crevices. The analysis of stomach contents revealed a broad overlap in diet and particle size, but those of O. wendtii had the highest amount of very fine flocculent material, and O. pumila, the smallest species, contained the largest particles. Thus these three closely related species, which appear to co-exist, when studied in detail show striking and subtle differences in several aspects of their life habits. The availability of suitable sized crevices is likely to be a major determinant of the distribution of the species.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 1985

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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