Seasons of Me!

"A glimpse into the life of a birder, beach comber, self taught naturalist, an antique dealer, and junker! There are many seasons that happen here!"

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Sea Star NOT as Odd as You Think

A lot of people call them starfish...but the more proper common term is Sea Star. It does have a more mystical magic in the name, don't you think? They are treasures to be searched for and found on my ocean beaches. I remember how excited I was when I found my first one! I pampered and babied it until it dried. In reality, by the time we find these on the beach there is not much we can do for them anymore. Their life time is usually over at that point. The most we can do for them at that time is to enjoy them...

Since then I have had the opportunity of finding more. I have shared them with friends and family. When you look into the life of a sea star you will find some amazing things out about it!

For starters they are an echinoderm--a spiny skinned animal which has ossicles or plates that make up an internal skeleton. It is located below an outer skin layer. They are radially symmetrical. It is estimated that there are about 1500 living species of sea stars worldwide.

They have tube feet which are responsible for movement with suckers present on the ends. Its spines are scattered so they do not form any type of pattern. They vary in color from tan to olive, from red to purple...Their habitat is on rocks, sand, or gravel in the low intertidal zone.

While they are beautiful to behold and present no danger to us, they can be formidable predators on small clams, oysters, and other bivalves. They use their tube feet to pry open bivalves, sometimes releasing a relaxant, and then prying open the shell to feast on the meat.

One of the most amazing feats that I can see from a sea star is that it can regenerate its limbs! If it should happen to lose one or time it will grow them back! In earlier days people harvesting clams and oysters would go out of their way to chop these sea stars in half trying to cut their populations down and therefore reducing their "crop" losses. They did not realize that they were not really killing them at all!

On a recent trip to Cape Lookout, North Carolina we found quite a few sea stars on the beach. Some were in varying states. As this picture shows, this one has lost 2 of its appendages. I saw another which had four and a half arms...the fifth arm was grown about halfway out...Why didn't I get a picture of that one?? I am still asking myself that question! It would have been the perfect picture showing this feat in progress!

Sea stars are beautiful, but they sure have many more wonders in there other than all beauty! There is a lot to be amazed about than meets the eye! Most of us tend to look at them through child like eyes--and there is absolutely nothing less amazing about that either!

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