Photo by Sonke Johnsen


Habitat & Geography

      The brittle star Ophiopsila riisei is commonly found in tropical marine environments. These stars are distributed near Belize, the Caribbean Sea (Bocas 2003), Cuba, the Gulf of Mexico, Haiti, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela (EOL 2003). This species was found in several different areas of Belizean waters including: the Belize Barrier Reef, Elbow Cay, westernmost of the Bird Cays, Manatee Cay shoal, Cat Cay, East Cut, Little Cat Cay, northernmost of the Lagoon Cays, and Bakers Rendezvous Cay (Hendler and Pawson 2000).  Ophiopsila riisei was found in Panama southwest of Buenaventura Cove, Portobelo, Ukhuptupo Islands, Florida, St. Thomas, St. Bartholomew, Barbados, Tortola, and the coasts of Central and South America to Brazil (EOL 2003).

      In these areas, Ophiopsila riisei can be found in coral rubble and clumps of algae along the reef crest to the reef slope (Bocas 2003), mangroves (short trees along the tidal shore), sea grass, sand, reef cracks/gaps, and sponges (Pomory 2007). Sponges that these stars could live among could be Plakortis simplex or Cryptotethya crypta, for example. Generally, this brittle star has been observed to live at a depth range of 1 meter to 366 meters. The temperatures of the water at which this organism occupies ranges from about 23.35 to 27.71 degrees Celsius (Bocas 2003). Pictured above is Ophiopsila aranea, a species very similar to Ophiopsila riisei. We see that it is burrowed in the crevice of the reef, much like Ophiopsila riisei would behave.


To see how the body of Ophiopsila riisei is structured, check out the Adaptation page!