Ophionereis schayeri Click to enlarge image
Schayer's Brittle Star, Ophionereis schayeri Image: Dr Isobel Bennett
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    schayeri
    Genus
    Ophionereis
    Family
    Ophionereididae
    Order
    Ophiurida
    Class
    Ophiuroidea
    Phylum
    Echinodermata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    18 cm

Introduction

Sydney has several species of brittle stars and the common name is derived from the fact that their arms fall off easily when handled or disturbed. Schayer's Brittlestar is the largest and most common brittle star found in Sydney waters

Identification

The central disc is grey with white spots and the arms are banded with black, grey and cream. Its long, flexible arms are held together with muscles and look snake-like, giving it its other common name of Snake Star.

Habitat

Schayer's Brittle Star lives on intertidal rocky shores and in coastal waters to a depth of 180 m.

Distribution

Schayer's Brittle Star is found in Sydney, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

Feeding and diet

Like sea stars, brittle stars have their mouth on the underside. They filter sand and mud from the ocean floor, feeding on detritus. Their digestive system is quite simple. They have a stomach but no intestine or anus, so any waste is excreted from the mouth.

Other behaviours and adaptations

Schayer's Brittle Star is often found under boulders and moves quickly away from light when the boulder is overturned.