Beach Creatures – The Starfish

The star of the sea, the starfish isn’t a fish

photo of The Starfish
Starfish image courtesy of laszlo-photo
(click on image to enlarge)

You may notice that we have used a “starfish” to rate our beach destinations on our individual beach pages; we call her “Stella” the starfish, but to address her properly, we would refer to her as a “sea star”. Starfish/sea stars are invertebrates known as echinoderms, and are close relatives of sand dollars (which are not, of course, monetary substitutes!) and sea urchins. They are carnivores, found in saltwater seas from the tropics to the icy cold of ocean floors, but they do not live in freshwater bodies.

There are about 2,000 species of sea stars, and the stylized star-shape with five limbs is far and away the most common, but sea stars can have 10 or 20, or as many as 40 arms! What is truly amazing is that when an arm is severed, it grows back! Even if, after an attack by a sea predator, all that’s left of the sea star is a portion of one limb, it can regenerate its entire being, including the body and appendages, from that small bit!

Sea stars can live to be as old as 35 years, and come in a range of colors, some of the bright and bolder ones designed to scare off would-be attackers. Their tube-like feet are capped with small suction cups that they use to grip food, but it’s the stomach that “eats” the food by coming out from the sea star’s mouth, gobbling the food and then drawing back inside.

With a bony “skin”, more like a shell that is calcified, the sea star has no brain and uses seawater (it has no blood) to pump ingested nutrients throughout its body. Adult sea stars can be fairly small, around 2” (5cm) or fairly large, close to a foot (34cm) from tip to tip. They are not dangerous to people, although stepping on the crusty exterior in the sands of the ocean can hurt and cut the soles of feet.

Stella, our starfish at BeachReviews.org, comes from this very old line of sea creatures that make a walk on the beach one of the most fascinating places to explore on our water-coated planet.

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