In Britain, the cushion star Asterina gibbosa Pennant 1897 (Echinodermata, Asteroidea) is confined to the west coast, where it occurs on rocky shores, often sympatrically with the closely related Asterina phylactica Emson & Crump 1979 (Crump & Emson, 1983; Emson & Crump, 1984). The vertical distribution of A. gibbosa extends from about 100 m depth, into the intertidal; however, littoral cushion stars occupy rock pools and relatively damp habitats such as gulley walls, crevices, overhangs and the underside of boulders, generally on the lower shore (Emson, 1979). On shores with rock pools, cushion stars may extend their upper limits of vertical distribution but not beyond the mean high-water neap-tide level (Crump & Emson, 1978). Absence of A. gibbosa from higher shore levels has been related to intolerance to desiccation and high temperature, inadequate food supply, and complex behavioural responses to gravity and light (Crozier, 1935; Emson, 1979; Crump & Emson, 1983). Prior to the present study, it has not been possible to discuss the influence of respiratory requirements on the vertical distribution of this species.