Smooth Brittle Star

(Ophioderma longicauda)


Smooth Brittle Star IUCN NOT EVALUATED (NE)


Facts about this animal

The pentagonal disc of the Smooth Brittle Star is 3 cm across. Its surface is smooth with a fine granulation and a leathery texture. On the ventral side between the arm’s bases there are 5 pairs of grooves. The 5 very slender arms each can reach 15 cm length. They are cylindrical and covered in only short spines. The colour of the Smooth Brittle Star is usually chocolate brown but may also be red-orange, dark brown or black. The arms often have lighter, greenish bands. The ventral side with the mouth, containing a five-toothed jaw, is paler. There is no anus, thus, undigested food must leave the animal through the mouth.

The strong locomotion by means of the arms which are thrown forward in pairs or wriggle individually moving the disc may be rather fast and can speed up to several meters per minute, especially on the run.

The Smooth Brittle Star is shade tolerant, photophobic and therefore hides below rocks by day.

By night it feeds very actively and voraciously on worms and bivalves buried in the sediment but also carrion and detritus. The Smooth Brittle Star can scent its prey on greater distance.

The sexes are separate and fertilization is external. The pelagic larvae are called ophiopluteus and settle after several weeks to metamorphose.

Lost arms are regenerated quickly. Brittle stars usually mature at the age of 2 years and can live up to 5 years.

Did you know?
that many brittle star species can produce light by means of fluorescing to put off enemies like crabs?


Name (Scientific) Ophioderma longicauda
Name (English) Smooth Brittle Star
Name (French) Ophiure lisse, Ophiure serpent, Ophiure brune
Name (German) Glatter Schlangenstern, Brauner Schlangenstern
Name (Spanish) Ofiura lisa, Ofioderma
Local names Dutch: Gladde slangster
Italian: Stella serpentina liscia
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed




Range Temperate to tropical zone of the northern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea from the western British Isles, the Bretagne to Western Africa and the Antilles.
Habitat On rocky bottom, sometimes also on sandy ground and corals from the surface down to 70 m depth.
Wild population Unknown
Zoo population 0 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo

Why do zoos keep this animal

Sometimes the Smooth Brittle Star is introduced to sea water aquariums to clean up the sandy bottom by feeding on leftovers and dead animals.