Feather Star (Antedon bifida)
This feather star has ten thin pinnate arms with branches which make it look feather-like. Around the base there are about 25 short cirri and these curl underneath to anchor the animal to the ground. The arms are pink or red with white speckles. The arms are around 5 cm in length.
This is a very unusual species and is one of the last remnants of an ancient and largely extinct group of marine Echinoderms – the crinoids. The feathery arms produce a large surface and by being held upwards they collect plankton and detritus from the water. Cilia on the surface beat to drive the material down to the mouth to be consumed. They have separate sexes with the gonads being located on the arms.
Feather-stars are found in a variety of habitats, mainly sheltered, and attached to rocks and algae. Sometimes they are found in very large numbers (possibly up to 1000 per metre squared). They are not, however, commonly met and the distribution is limited somewhat to the southern Atlantic coastline of Europe.
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