August 26, 2014

The Age, 25 August 2014

The scientific secrets of some of Museum Victoria's unique marine animal collection have been unlocked for the first time, thanks to DNA testing.

Researchers sequenced more than 400 genes from 50 different types of brittle stars, with the results set to shed new light on the evolution of Australia's deep-sea life.

Relatives of starfish, brittle stars are marine animals that can live up to five kilometres below the surface on the abyssal plain. Surviving on plankton, the deep sea creatures whip across the sea floor using their long arms to propel them or clamber across coral.

Part of a three-year national project* to map Australia's sea floor, the results have allowed researchers including marine biologist and NERP Marine Hub researcher Tim O'Hara to start drawing up a family tree for the species. It marks the first step in understanding exactly how brittle stars evolved.  Read the full story


  • The work for this project has been partially undertaken for the Marine Biodiversity Hub, a collaborative partnership supported through funding from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program (NERP).
  • Image: Starring role: Brittle stars are helping solve ocean mysteries. Image: Julian Finn, Museum Victoria