Wednesday 27 April 2011

Sunflower Starfish

Image via Wikipedia
The Sunflower Starfish is a giant amongst starfish, reaching in some cases as much as 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) across. By that measure, they can be regarded as the biggest starfish in the world although their abundance of soft, fleshy tissue means they are not the heaviest. Some Sunflower Starfish come in bright orange or yellow colours. Coupled with up to 24 arms, you can easily see where they get their name from. Others are brown or purple, which is substantially less cheerful.

Another problem is that they are voracious predators. From Alaska to California, Sunflower Starfish can be seen rushing, no, hurtling at speeds of a metre per minute on their 15,000 tube feet. Clearly, prey doesn't stand a chance with this kind of blinding pace. Certainly not when prey consists of sea urchins, clams, snails and other starfish. Or indeed dead cephalopods. The mouth is at the centre of the tube feet and can be opened wide to swallow food. If it's too big for that, they can also do that disgusting thing where they spit out their own stomach and start digesting stuff outside of their body before swallowing. I wish they would try out chewing instead, I really do.

Sunflower starfish (Pycnopodia helianthoides)Image via Wikipedia
Mating is a simple matter of chucking gametes out into the sea. Eggs are fertilized and the larvae drift around as plankton for a month or two. After this, they settle down on the ocean floor as tiny little starfish with 5 arms. Pff, 5 arms? 5? Bit normal, innit? Of course it is. So the other 19 will have to come as they grow and stop being quite so tiny. Eventually, they will clear their path ahead using nothing but the power of menace and the inspiration of fear, just like their parents!


TexWisGirl said...

chewing - try it. :)

Joseph JG said...

Let me take this opportunity to officially endorse your message. I have found the act of chewing to be a true friend both in good times and bad, so long as it's not so bad that there's no food.

Anonymous said...

LOVE the blog! Watching these starfish battle it out on some of David Attenboroughs specials is extra crazy!

Joseph JG said...

Thanks a lot Simba! Glad you stopped by and yes, David Attenborough is always great for adding something extra. Not always crazy, but always special.

Crunchy said...

24? Oh dear, that's entirely too many.