Creature Feature: Giant Basket Star (Astrophyton muricatum)
Basket stars are simply a modified brittle star. There are about 100 species worldwide but in Florida we typically find the Astrophyton muricatum. The arms of the Giant Basket star grow to 1 – 1 ½ feet in length!
What do they eat?
As a nocturnal species, the basket star feeds at night and hides during the day. After the sun goes down, they face into the current and branch out their numerous arms. This web of arms forms a “net” which is used to catch plankton such as copepods. When prey comes within reach, a basket star will catch the plankton with an arm and curl it into their mouth.
Picture taken by Mary Lou Frost, Coral Reef Alliance http://www.coral.org/node/4825
Who eats them?
A variety of reef fish are known to snack on basket stars.
Basket sea stars can be found from 20 to 90ft deep. They are typically attached to gorgonians (soft corals) such as sea plumes, sea rods, and sea whips.
During the day, basket stars coil into a ball in order to hide from predators. See how many you can spot the next time your diving!