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Ophiolepis pawsoni, a new species of ophiolepidinine brittlestar, is readily distinguished from its congenersby its color pattern. Lines of intense brown pigmentation demarcate white bands on the arms and white patches on the disc from the pale reddish-brown ground color of the
body. O. pawsoni is part of the deep-reef echinoderm fauna, and occurs sympatrically with O. gemma on the seaward slope of the Belize Barrier Reef. Its other western Atlantic congeners O. elegans, O. impressa, O. kieri, and O. paucispina generally are found in soft
bottom habitats and in reef, seagrass, or mangrove, shallow-water communities. O. ailsae is restricted to bathyal depths considerably below hermatypic reef formations. These seven species of Ophiolepis comprise three groups with contrasting morphologies: (1) taxa with a convex
disc, long slender arms, a dispersed central rosette of primary plates and generally with severalcolumns of major scalesin the interradial field (O. ailsae, O. gemma, O. impressa, O. kieri, and O. paucispina); (2) taxa with a flat disc and united central rosette, with arms that
are flat, short, and broad near the disc and with a single column of major scales in the interradial field (O. elegans), and (3) taxa with small, thick, irregularly arranged disc scales of approximately equal size (O. pawsoni).
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