Do gulls benefit from the starfish autotomy response?

Iain Wilkie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Certain starfish have a restricted autotomy region at the base of each arm, at which the whole arm is detached if damaged or
trapped. These species are common prey items of gulls, which have been observed to break-up starfish by gripping one arm and
shaking the whole animal. This raises the possibility that shaking invokes the autotomy response, thereby accelerating
consumption of prey and reducing the opportunity for prey to be stolen. To evaluate the role of autotomy in this interaction,
specimens of Asterias rubens were shaken manually and the timing and pattern of breakage recorded. It was found that arm
detachment was usually mediated by autotomy, although this depended on the way in which animals were shaken, and that
autotomy did not effect detachment more rapidly than breakage outwith the autotomy region.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Biodiversity Records
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • predation
  • starfish
  • autotomy
  • gulls
  • Asterias rubens


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