Report | December 10, 2016

On the occurrence of Coronaster briareus (Echinodermata, Forcipulatida, Asteriidae) in the Mediterranean Sea


The sea star Coronaster briareus (Verrill Am J Sci (Ser III), 1882) is reported for the first time from the Mediterranean Sea. A total of 26 individuals were sighted in Maltese waters during ROV surveys made in July 2015 and June–July 2016. The identity of the species was confirmed through morphological examination of a specimen collected in June 2016. This identification is discussed in the light of inconsistencies in the published descriptions of species of Coronaster recorded from the Atlantic, and of individuals belonging to this genus recorded from the eastern Atlantic and whose coloration does not match that of C. briareus or C. volsellatus (the only species of Coronaster hitherto known from the Atlantic). The presence of numerous individuals of C. briareus in Maltese waters, recorded on two occasions a year apart over a relatively large area, indicates that there is an established population. This represents a considerable expansion of the distribution range of this species, which is mostly known from the western Atlantic. Possible reasons for its presence in Maltese waters are discussed, but the dynamics of the occurrence of C. briareus in the central Mediterranean remain unknown.