Wednesday 23 January 2013

Chocolate Chip Starfish

Image: wildsingapore via Flickr
Protoreaster nodosus
Run, run as fast you can,
You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!

Stroll, stroll as slow as you wish,
I barely move, I'm the Chocolate Chip Starfish!

Image: wildsingapore via Flickr
The Chocolate Chip Starfish is a great, big starfish from the Indo-Pacific region. A lot of them look a LOT like a giant, chunky cookie with huge nuggets of chocolate all over. I guess starfish predators must really dislike cookies. Weird...

A word of warning: don't dress like a huge, chocolatey cookie around me! It will confer no survival advantage! I'll probably stop eating you at some point but there's no guessing how much damage will be done in the meantime.

Image: wildsingapore via Flickr
Chocolate Chip Starfish are big. A really huge one can reach 30 cm (a foot) across, though others may be less than half that. Either way, that's a big cookie! Starfish, I mean. It's a starfish.

Image: wildsingapore via Flickr
Luckily, these starfish are actually extremely variable. The Chocolate Chip name comes from the ones that are pale like cookie dough, with chocolatey brown knobs. Others come in all sorts of browns, reds and pinks, so other names like Horned Starfish are also used. They still have chocolate chips, though. So that's good.

These are also cookies who take good care of themselves. They don't clamber all over rocks and gravel leaving crumbs all over the place. They prefer to wander across sand and mud, soft sediments that preserve their cumbly goodness. They often poke around in sea grass, seeking out slow and stationary prey like snails, sponges and coral. So it's a cookie with a belly full of meat. A "carnivore option" for cookies.

Image: wildsingapore via Flickr
Chocolate Chip Starfish appear incredibly tough and rigid, but they are actually surprisingly flexible when they want to be. They can arch themselves up on the tips of their 5 arms, where they end up looking like a terribly uncomfortable stool.

This may be the position they assume when they release their gametes into the sea at breeding time. Some kind of "tantric spawning", I guess. And I suppose that kind of bendiness is what happens when you leave your cookies in the sea all day.