Brittlestar City: The Video

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

9 Replies to “Brittlestar City: The Video”

  1. Pretty amazing. Was that a remote sub or human operated? I wonder if the lasers are used to determine proximity to the sea floor?

  2. These aggregations of brittle stars are fairly common. I’ve seen them once or twice before. How about you, CM and KZ?

    I’m inclined to think this is a towed camera because the up and down motion of the camera is enough to make you ill.

    Bryan, the lasers are used as a scale to estimate many things, distance from the seafloor among them. Also the size of organisms, area swept, etc for purposes of analysis.

  3. Definitely towed camera. I’ve seen dense aggregations of brittle stars. But probably not anything that dense or widespread.

  4. In deep Gulf of Mexico methane seeps, there are bucket loads of brittle stars associated with tubeworm aggregations (I think, I’ll double check).

  5. I forget, is there anything remotely interesting about brittlestars? ;)

  6. OK, double-checked and a grad student in the Fisher lab says brittle stars covered the mussel beds (not tubeworms) in the Deep Gulf of Mexico. Oodles of them I say!

    Peter, food for molluscs?

  7. I hear from my advisor they’re hardly good for that, mate, tooo crunchy, but they show up in fish stomachs so maybe they good for somethin’ after all!

    I have some nice video of the GoMx ophiuroids on deep gorgonian corals Callogorgia sp. at ~530 m from 2003. They appeared fleshy. I wonder if they are the same species or genus. These can be abundant.

  8. Perhaps fish need calcium supplements just like people do?

    Some of the Deep Gulf of Mex brittle stars we collect from Lophelia and seep include Ophienigma spinilimbatum, Amphioplus sp., and Ophiotreta valenciennesi rufescens.

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