Getting Nauti with the Echinoderm Known as Asteroidea
There we go again, getting all uppity with our Latineese.
Yeah, yeah, why can’t we just call it what it is? Dunno, but in part it’s because we at Getting Nauti love a little word play, much like we love all things nautical. And, as much as calling this sea critter echinodermata Asteroidea may be meaningless to you, one of its common names makes no sense either. This because some brilliant wordsmith years ago decided to describe this creature as a fish, even though it has no gills, scales, blood or fins, and hardly has any biological connection to fish (pisces, ichtyes and a bunch of other Latinate names) at all.
Fish or not, nomenclatured in Latin or not, this creature in all its iterations is beautiful—a natural work of art—and that’s why it’s featured as part of Getting Nauti’s jewelry line.
We are talking, of course, about the starfish.
Starfish—also commonly referred to as sea stars—are related to sand dollars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers of the Phylum Echinodermata, which from the Latin means that all these creatures have a five-sectioned body plan that emanates from a central disk. Of course, given that the starfish isn’t really a “fish,” perhaps it may not really be an echinoderm, because a few of the 2,000 or so species of starfish have way more than five arms. Like say, the “sun star,” which sports up to 40 arms.
Speaking of those arms, sometimes even a common five-armed starfish might only have four or three, but that’s because starfish tend to lose their arms to predators. And not only “lose” because of predator teeth-action, but can just “drop” an arm when threatened. But no big deal, as they grow back…. Or, even more freakily, some species can even just regenerate a completely new starfish from a dropped arm (as long as it contains a piece of that central disk).
Isn’t there an old horror movie about some dude who can regenerate himself when chopped into pieces….?
Right, back to “starfish!” Apologies, but much like our affinity for Latin, we are easily distracted and quick to digress.
So, the reason regeneration works so well, is that most of a starfish’s primary organs are located in each of its arms. Including—get this—its eyes. That’s right at the end of each arm is an eye.
Were we just saying something about horror movie material? And no digression here because just consider how they eat their prey—common bivalves such as clams, mussels, fish and snails: After wrapping those arms around the victim, the starfish expels its own stomach out of its mouth, which then starts digesting the prey, while sucking the digested bits back through the mouth. And then, when satiated, it just sucks its stomach back in. Depending upon your viewpoint, you’re either thinking “Eew” or “Woah, way cool.” We happen to be on the latter wavelength, because nature—especially sea-life—is just way cool, no matter how it feeds on their victims….
…or how they keep themselves from becoming victims. We already told you about the “dropped” arm trick, but most starfish also grow with a bit of armoured skin, with most having what is best described as leathery skin with various degrees of prickliness, with which it helps itself fend off predators such as birds, fish and sea otters, which don’t like to feel such sensations in their respective mouths. Some starfish are a bit more prickly than others, such as the “crown-of-thorns” starfish, which, as you can probably surmise from its name, no predator wants to take a bite of.
His eyes may be bigger than his stomach!
If you have never seen a starfish, then you obviously aren’t spending enough time in a nautical environment, because they pretty much live everywhere in the world’s oceans, from the Arctic to near those super-hot sea vents, and from intertidal zones almost dry to deep water where no diver has ever ventured.
Of course, given that their means of location is 100s of tiny tube feet, which can propel most starfish at relatively high speed (and also help the starfish hold onto its prey), you probably just can’t move your eyes fast enough to see one.
Kidding…. Key word above was “relatively.” If you’ve looked but haven’t seen one, it’s likely because of their inherent camoflauge, and perhaps because you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. But once you’ve found one, you’ll find that spotting others comes easy.
Custom Art - Starfish
Custom Art - Sand Dollar
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