animal Type
Maximum Size

75 cm

(30 inches) across


100–1,800 m

(30–6,100 feet)



especially on seamounts and other rocky habitats


Plankton and drifting organic material


North Pacific Ocean

Bering Sea to Japan and Baja California, also Arctic Ocean and North Atlantic Ocean


A twisted tangle of arms captures a feast from the currents.

Perched atop a coral or a rocky outcropping, a basket star (Gorgonocephalus eucnemis) stretches out its arms to trap zooplankton and other particles of food drifting in the waters overhead.

A basket star’s repeatedly branching arms bear microscopic hooks and secrete sticky mucus to help grab planktonic prey. After snagging a morsel of food, the arm curls into a tight knot and passes it to the mouth beneath the star’s central disc.

Basket stars are especially common at seamounts. These underwater mountains deflect the currents running along the deep seafloor, concentrating food and supporting a rich community of life. Corals and sponges thrive on seamount slopes and provide refuge for countless fishes and invertebrates. These deep-sea oases are threatened by fishing gear and climate change, and may soon become targets for seabed mining too. But marine protected areas can safeguard seamounts and the abundant animals that depend on them.



Kogan, I., C.K. Paull, L. Kuhnz, E.J. Burton, S. Von Thun, H.G. Greene, and J. Barry. 2006. ATOC/Pioneer Seamount cable after 8 years on the seafloor: Observations and environmental impact. Continental Shelf Research, 26: 771–787.

Lundsten, L., J.P. Barry, G.M. Caillet, D.A. Clague, A. DeVogelaere, and J.B. Geller. 2009. Benthic invertebrate communities on three seamounts off southern and central California, USA. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 374: 23–32.

McClain, C.R., L. Lundsten, M. Ream, J.P. Barry, and A. DeVogelaere. 2009. Endemicity, Biogeograhy, Composition, and Community Structure On a Northeast Pacific Seamount. PLoS ONE, 4: e4141.