Brittlestars are beautiful creatures but rarely seen, probably because people do not know about them. They live in the very low intertidal or sub tidal zones, usually under rocks that have sand under them. When the rocks are turned over they quickly bury themselves into the sand, or move under another rock. They are amazing to watch as they wave their arms around and prod the sand to find a soft spot to disappear into.
The most common ones found at Henderson Bay is the Ophionereis fasciata which is endemic to New Zealand, meaning that it is found here and no where else in the world just like the kiwi. The disk diameter can be up to 16mm with a random pattern. These are the biggest ones that are found here and have two different colour varitions as can be seen on the photos below.
Another one that is seen alot here is the Ophioceres huttoni which can easily be overlooked as it is small, with a disc diameter about 8mm.
Only found once in a tidal gut in the shallow subtidal zone is the the Ophiopsammus macula. This is another endemic of New Zealand and the disc diameter can be up to 48mm. While the photo here shows it looking all black (which it was) it can also be dark crimson.
If you find one and want to pick it up be very gentle as their arms can break off quite easily, hence the name brittle stars.
Click on each photo below to view more detail.
All photos have been taken at Otaipango – Henderson Bay
The following video shows a different type of brittle star from those above moving across the bottom. These can move!
Filmed on Location at Otaipango – Henderson Bay