The Chilean basket star is a species of brittle star that lives in the deep fjords of southern Chile and perhaps in other deep benthic habitats of southern South America. This species, like all basket stars, has five-part symmetry, with all of the hair-like appendages originating from five central arms that repeatedly divide into the basket shape that gives the group its common name.
Chilean basket stars are filter feeders. They cannot swim, but are highly mobile and crawl to the top of sponges or other structures in order to extend their branched arms into the water column. Using the hooks and spines that cover their arms, individuals capture pelagic invertebrates (e.g., antarctic krill) that venture too close. After prey is ensnared, these animals pass it to the mouth on the central disc. Chilean basket stars have little nutritional value and therefore few predators, but some bony fishes likely feed on this species. Individuals often hide inside sponges or other structure to avoid predation.
Basket stars reproduce via a behavior known as broadcast spawning, where females release their eggs and males release their sperm into the water column at the same time. This method increases the likelihood that eggs will become fertilized and that fertilized eggs will not be eaten by egg predators near the seafloor.
Chilean basket stars are not targeted for human consumption or for any reason, but they are accidentally taken as bycatch in trawl fisheries targeting other species. Its conservation status is not currently known, but the fjords of southern Chile are at risk from pollution and destructive fishing, so it is important to design conservation measures to protect these valuable ecosystems.
Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.