Use of Plain Film Radiography, Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in Sea Stars, Using the Ochre Sea Star (Pisaster ochraceus) as a Model
IAAAM 2016
Eric Littman1*; Lesanna Lahner2; Tori McKlveen3
1Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA, USA; 2Seattle Aquarium, Seattle, WA, USA; 3VCA Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle, Lynnwood, WA, USA


Sea stars are important keystone predators of the intertidal zone, preying mostly on other invertebrate species. Additionally, they are amongst the more charismatic of invertebrate aquarium inhabitants.1 Advancements in sea star medicine have the potential to affect wildlife management and conservation, aquarium/zoological facility medicine, as well as the ornamental aquaculture industry for companion and hobby aquarists. Despite that the field of invertebrate veterinary medicine has been on the rise for the last several years, the ability of a veterinarian to make a diagnosis and treat a condition has largely relied on taking a detailed history (making husbandry-related issues the most common cause of illness in aquatic invertebrates under human care). That being said, it is now possible to obtain and interpret non-invasive, highly valuable information from different diagnostic imaging modalities. Plain film radiography (colloquially known as X-ray), computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) allow different aspects of sea star anatomy to be displayed and highlighted. In addition to functioning as a useful imaging tool, CT can also be used to determine the relative density of sea star endoskeletal ossicles, which may be useful in determining the presence of disease states or environmental pH imbalances.


We would like to thank the following for their assistance: the AQUAVET® Research Fellowship committee, the International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine (IAAAM) Medway Scholarship committee; the Boeing Company for their ongoing funding of sea star research; the radiology staff at the VCA Specialty Center of Seattle; Felicia Nutter and Mauricio Solano at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

* Presenting author

Literature Cited

1.  Blanchette CA, Richards DV, Engle JM, Broitman BR, Gaines SD. Regime shifts, community change, and population booms of keystone predators at the Channel Islands. Proceedings of the California Islands Symposium 6. 2003:435–441.


Speaker Information
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Eric Littman, BS
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
Tufts University
North Grafton, MA, USA

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