Astrophiura caroleae, new species, is described from off Curacao in the southern Caribbean, and from the western Gulf of Mexico, in depths of 244 to 434 meters. This new species, the first in the genus Astrophiura to be described from the Atlantic Ocean, has a distinctive combination of characters, including regularly arranged primary plates, large radial shields whose radial edges are in contact for their entire visible length, and prominent tubercles on central and radial plates. The mottled reddish coloration of the dorsal surface of this species usually contrasts with the color of the substra-tum, rendering it readily visible in situ, despite its disc diameter of less than 10 mm. Like its congeners, A. caroleae is gonochoric, the gonads of females containing conspicuous masses of bright orange eggs that are approximately 165 μm in diameter. DNA Barcoding data are provided for this new species, these are the first for Astrophiura.
In a survey of the bathyal echinoderms of the Bahama Islands region using manned submersibles, approximately 200 species of echinoderms were encountered and documented; 33 species were echinoids, most of them widespread in the general Caribbean area. Three species were found to exhibit covering behavior, the piling of debris on the upper surface of the body. Active covering is common in at least 20 species of shallow-water echinoids, but it has been reliably documented previously only once in deep-sea habitats. Images of covered deep-sea species, and other species of related interest, are provided. Some of the reasons adduced in the past for covering in shallow-water species, such as reduction of incident light intensity, physical camouflage, ballast in turbulent water, protection from desiccation, presumably do not apply in bathyal species. The main reasons for covering in deep, dark, environments are as yet unknown. Some covering behavior in the deep sea may be related to protection of the genital pores, ocular plates, or madreporite. Covering in some deep-sea species may also be merely a tactile reflex action, as some authors have suggested for shallow-water species.