Brooding Brittle Star Babies in 3D

Posted 10 December 2015 by NISC under Announcements & Notices • Journal: African Journal of Marine Science
Brooding Brittle Star Babies in 3D

Published in African Journal of Marine Science, Volume 37, issue 4, J. Landschoff and CL. Griffiths’ “Three-dimensional visualisation of brooding behaviour in two distantly related brittle stars from South African waters” describe high resolution 3D images, data, and videos of five individuals from three different species of live-bearing brittle stars. 

Brittle stars, closely related to starfish, mostly reproduce externally but some species develop their young internally, and then “give birth” to live young. First author, Jannes Landschoff, from the Applied Marine Science Institute at the University of Cape Town says: “Our goal was to visualise the very large brooded juveniles inside the adults without disturbing the surrounding tissues. At first, we purely wanted to show the feasibility, but we soon realised how amazing the three-dimensional visualisations looked and that our rotation movies attracted much interest…”

The technique, named microcomputed tomography, has been used to study the morphology of marine species and has been used for the first time to obtain 3D images of brooded young inside the mothers of two viviparous (live-bearing) species of brittle star, without having to dissect the mothers.

In this way the authors ensured that the positions of those young were not disturbed, as might happen during dissection. Through the 3D animation, one can also view the young inside the mothers from various angles, displayed throughout this study. 

In recognizing the extremely high quality of the images they used to study the brittle star development, and that the data included much more information than they actually used, GigaScience publications decided to add this to their repository by containing raw data and an associated explanatory data note, while the formal presentation of the study, including the synthesis and interpretation of the information and its placement in the context of existing knowledge can be found in the paper published in African Journal of Marine Science. 

This paper will be available for a limited free access period. To subscribe to this journal see more information here

The 5.4 μm isotropic 197 voxel size scan of a brittle star species, Ampiura capensis, reveals calcified skeleton components (intensely bright areas), the juveniles developing inside (note also indicator for juvenile disk and arm), and soft tissues such as the bursal wall.
From Landschoff J, Du Plessis A, Griffiths CL. 2015a. A dataset describing brooding in three species of South African brittle stars, comprising seven high-resolution, X-ray micro tomography scans. 

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