Critter of the Week: Brisinga chathamica

Brisingida are an order of deep-sea dwelling sea stars that look more like brittle stars with a small disk that is distinctly set off from their 13-15 arms.

The most common species around New Zealand is the bright red Brisinga chathamica which occurs off East Cape, the Chatham Rise and as far south as the sub-Antarctic Bounty Islands from around 300-1500m.

Brisingids are suspension feeders so they can usually be seen perched in exposed locations where they take advantage of the water current from which they extract food particles.

This photo was taken by our DTIS on a Macquarie Ridge volcanic seamount at around 500 m.
Spot the fish that is seeking shelter amongst the arms, some beautiful little gorgonian corals (Calyptrophora), and what is the squat lobster in the bottom centre up to? [NIWA]

This brisingid is perched on a small rock outcropping on the otherwise very muddy/sandy Chatham Rise, 400 m. Note the pair of bright red and prickly ‘horrible urchins’ (Dermechinus horridus) and a bunch the ‘parasol urchins’ (Goniocidaris parasol). [NIWA]
Pictured here are two brisingids perched on top of an extensive bed of Solenosmilia variabilis coral in the Graveyard seamount complex, Chatham Rise, 950-1000 m. The two laser points in the centre are 20 cm apart. [NIWA]
Pictured above is what they look like when they arrive in the collection! Because they are so fragile, the arms usually detach and what’s left is a round disk and arm fragments. Luckily, this still provides sufficient characters for the scientists to identify the material. [McKnight (2006), NIWA Biodiversity Memoir 120]