Marine scientists have discovered a population of a species of starfish with 10 and 11 arms living more than 200 m below the surface in waters off Malta (central Mediterranean). These starfish were spotted using an underwater robot during an at-sea survey as part the Life BaĦAR for N2K project, which aims to identify new marine areas for possible designation as marine protected areas.
A post-expedition biological analysis of the starfish confirmed the species to be Coronaster briareus, a starfish that usually has ten or eleven arms. This starfish was previously reported from the western Atlantic, where it is found from the United States to Brazil, but it has never been reported in the Mediterranean Sea, until now.
“This is a quite a discovery. What we don’t know for sure is how or why these starfish are in the Mediterranean. Either they travelled a long way from the Atlantic into Mediterranean waters, or they simply had not been spotted earlier because the animalswere observed in deep waters”, says Ricardo Aguilar, Senior Research Director at Oceana in Europe.