Arctic Echinoderms from Svalbard Dear Visitors

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Arctic Echinoderms from Svalbard

Dear Visitors,
A wonderful World of marine life is hidden in cold Svalbard waters. You can experience it while you are SCUBA diving or digging through a sample dredged from higher depths on board a research vessel. One of the most impressive creatures are echinoderms. These large spiny animals has fascinated people since long time. They built their skeletons of calcium carbonate, are covered by thin epidermis (like skin) and can occur in a variety of forms and colours. Echinoderms are less diverse than many other macrobenthic groups, they make ca. 30 species in Svalbard waters and around 100 species in the Arctic. However, due to their common occurrence, high abundance and biomass they are crucial players in in many aspects of benthic systems functioning.
It is important to know how to name what you have in hands whether you are a scientist or an amateur diver. We have created this page to help all those who get interested in these beautiful creatures, whether driven by scientific interest or fun. The webpage is inspired by similar pages prepared by our departamental colleagues for polychaetes (link), bryozoans (link), alcyonarians (link), zooplankton (link), ostracods (link), foraminifers or molluscs (link) from Svalbard waters. Our web page is a next step to achieve a general goal to provide an updated and illustrated reference to marine invertebrates occurring in this region, in a way similar to a classical work of Klekowski & Węsławski (1992, Atlas of Marine fauna of South Spitsbergen)

Here you can find a gallery of key echinoderm species that could be encountered around Svalbard. Pictures are supported with ecological information and identification tips. Even if our webpage is still being developed and far from being complete, we hope it will give you some insight into Arctic echinoderms and will help you to identify your specimens. We hope this page will also provide a platform for exchanging ideas, discussions, sharing material and facts.

We hope you will enjoy this page,
Tomek & Marysia

Tomasz Borszcz, M. Sc., Ph.D. student; Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Powstancow Warszawy 55, 81-712 Sopot, Poland;


Maria Włodarska-Kowalczuk, Ph. D., Ass. Prof.; Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Powstancow Warszawy 55, 81-712 Sopot, Poland;


For collaborators: We will be happy to receive comments and suggestions improving the content of the webpage. Every correction and taxonomic advice will be helpful. If you can help us and provide with pictures, additional information that would expanding this page, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Disclaimer: This page is prepared for you to use it freely, including pictures for presentations or printing hard copy as field/lab guide. Instead of hosting our pictures on other pages, what is not allowed, please use links to our photographs or to the whole pages, what is much welcome. If you wish to publish single pictures, please contact us to obtain permission and information on picture’s authorship.

Using our webpage for taxonomic identifications for publication purpose please remember to acknowledge it. It’s the only reward for our time devoted to this page.

How to Cite:
Borszcz T. & Włodarska-Kowalczuk M. 2013. Arctic echinoderms from Svalbard. Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland. Electronic resource – World Wide Web publication (adres strony). [Accessed: xx.xx.xxxx; please provide exact date against ‘x’]

…::: We are thankful to Wojciech Moskal for his help during creating this page.

…::: It would be impossible to assemble this page if not the kind help of our colleagues, namely Piotr Kukliński, Piotr Bałazy, Małgorzata Nowak, Anna Piwoni, Anna Piszewska, Agnieszka Kostrzyńska, Michał Saniewski, Joanna Przytarska and Krzysztof Koszarowski. They provided some of the pictures or specimens used here as well as great help and company during our fieldworks.

…::: The web page was created thanks to the financial suport of the Polish National Science Center ( grant no. 2011/03/N/ST10/05776).

Relevant Echinoderm web sites , links, publications:

Echinoderm inventories (on-line):

- WoRMS [link] webpage with state of the art opinions on taxonomy including Arctic echinoderms

- EOL [link] Encyclopedia of Life, including echinoderms from Arctic

- OBIS [link] and IMIS [link] webpages linking taxonomy and biogeography

- The Echinoid Directory [link] excellent web devoted to modern and fossil echinoids
Other relevant webpages:

- Piotr Bałazy’s collection of underwater photos from Svalbard (link)
- webpage with many pictures of Norway’s echinoderms (link)

Species check lists, including echinoderms from Svalbard:

-Anisimova N.A. & Cochrane S.J. 2003. An annotated checklist of the echinoderms of the Svalbard and Franz Josef Land archipelagos and adjacent waters. Sarsia, 88 (2):113 - 135.

- Hansson H.G. 2001. Echinodermata, in: Costello M.J. et al. (Ed.) 2001. European register of marine species: a check-list of the marine species in Europe and a bibliography of guides to their identification. Collection Patrimoines Naturels, 50: pp. 336-351.

Taxonomic keys/guides:

- Anisimova N.A., Presler P., Węsławski J.M. 1992. Echinodermata. In: Atlas of the marine fauna of Southern Spitsbergen. Vol. 2. Invertebrates. Part 2. R.Z. Klekowski & J.M. Węsławski (eds.), Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute Oceanology, Gdańsk: 153-209.

- Hayward P.J. & Ryland J.S. 1995. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. OUP Oxford, 816 pp.

- Marysiu, czy możemy tutaj udostępnić klucz od prof. Pieppenburga lub by Jo-Ann?????
Diversity of echinoderms:

- Stohr S., O’Hara T.D. & Thuy B. 2012. Global diversity of brittle stars (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea). PLoS ONE 7(3): e31940. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031940

- Appeltans W. et al. 2012. The magnitude of global marine species diversity. Current Biology, 22(23): 2189-2202.

- Kroh A. & Smith A. B. 2010. The phylogeny and classification of post-Palaeozoic echinoids. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 7, 147-212.

- Mah C.L. & Blake D.B. 2012. Global diversity and phylogeny of the Asteroidea (Echinodermata). PLoS ONE 7(4): e35644. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035644.

- Biermann C.H., B.D. Kessing & S.R. Palumbi. 2003. Phylogeny and development of marine model species: strongylocentrotid sea urchins. Evolution & Development, 5: 360-371.

Ecology of Svalbard echinoderms (selected examples):

- Bluhm B., Piepenburg D. & von Juterzenka K. 1998. Distribution, standing stock, growth, mortality and production of Strongylocentrotus pallidus (Echinodermata: Echinoidea) in the northern Barents Sea. Polar Biology, 20(5):325–334.

- Piepenburg D. & Schmid M.K. 1996. Brittle star fauna (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea) of the Arctic northwestern Barents Sea: Composition, abundance, biomass and spatial distribution. Polar Biology, 16(6):383–392.

- Piepenburg D., Voß J. & Gutt J. 1997. Assemblages of sea stars (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) and brittle stars (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea) in the Weddell Sea (Antarctica) and off Northeast Greenland (Arctic): A comparison of diversity and abundance. Polar Biology, 17(4):305–322.

Plan strony:

Lewa kolumna: species list (na głównej stronie i wszystkich podstronach)

Prawa kolumna: news & update (a na stronach poszczególnych gatunków będą info takso-eko-geograficzne)

Center: powitanie- powyższy tekst (a na poszczególnych podstronach będą fotki gatunku)

Top-bottom: zdjecie na pierwszej stronie; relevant references na stronach gatunkow

Top-up: Title i logo IOPAN (a na poszczególnych stronach dodatkowo nazwy gatunków)
Proszę dodać to co poniżej do prawej kolumny, na samej górze:

…::: 08.03.2013.

The webpage just started!!!

Please browse regularly for updates

Don’t forget to add this page to bookmarks

And don’t hesitate to contact us…
Proszę dodać to co poniżej do lewej kolumny:
Echinoidea [sea urchins]

Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis
Crinoidea [feather stars]

Heliometra glacialis
Asteroidea [starfish]

Stephanasterias albula

Henricia sanguinolenta

Crossaster papposus

Ctenodiscus crispatus

Solaster endeca

Urasterias linckii

Pteraster ?obscurus
Ophiuroidea [brittle stars]

Gorgonocephalus sp.

Ophiocten sericeum

Ophiopholis aculeata

Ophiopleura borealis

Ophiacantha bidentata

Ophiura robusta

Stegophiura nodosa

Ophiura sarsii

Ophioscolex glacialis
Holothurioidea [sea cucumbers]

Cucumaria frondosa

Każda prawa kolumna dla poszczególnych gatunków będzie miała formę jak poniżej:
Genus and species name:

Higher classification:

How to identify:

Basic ecology:

Geographic distribution:

Bathymetric distribution:

Link to WORMS:


Important publications:

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