Sunday 10 January 2016

Cushion Star

Image: Patrick Randall
Even mermaids need a place to lay down their head.

Starfish to the rescue!

Image: James Lynott
We're looking at Cushion Stars. Big, fat, bloated Cushion Stars.

There are three species, all found in Indo-Pacific waters and all belonging to a genus called Culcita. The word comes from the Latin for 'mattress', so... maybe mermaids are really small? Or perhaps there are merfairies!

Image: Ed Bierman
Cushion Stars really are starfish! They're just not fish or stars.

They look ridiculous...

Image: John Turnbull

Image: Patrick Randall

Like they're in constant need of a large, comfortable chair to sit in. If any starfish can get tired out from crawling at a snail's pace, this is it. And, coincidentally, a comfortable chair is the perfect place for a nice, puffy cushion!

Image: Ed Bierman
They're not small either. The biggest ones can reach a good 30 cm (1 foot) across...

And that thick, almost hemispherical body with almost no arms to speak of. What's a starfish without a star-shape? If only 'Blobfish' wasn't already taken.

Image: Shari
That's the tip of an arm! You can see the groove for the tube feet
At least they come in a truly vast array of colours. From the ostentatious to the sombre and everything in between, there's a Cushion Star for every home!

And yet, and yet, and yet. Despite it all, they remain surprisingly flexible as they crawl about in search of detritus, corals or sponges to munch on.

Video: jaiman024

They look inflated fit to burst but they can still change shape to a degree. So, they might look like a near spherical bulge, but they can also look much more like a chubby pentagon and sometimes you can even recognise starfish arms begging to be noticed.

Interestingly, they didn't always look this way.

Image: WoRMS Editorial Board
Juvenile Cushion Stars are much flatter and are actually star-shaped. In fact, they look like completely different starfish and, for a long time, that's exactly what people thought they were! Specifically, it was thought they belonged to an entirely different family called Goniasteridae.

As they grow into adulthood, Cushion Stars lose the svelte figure of their youth and begin to pile on the pounds. Maybe I should think about tackling that chocolate habit sooner rather than later?


TexWisGirl said...

funky and aptly named!

Esther said...

I wonder if any marine biologist has actually tried to sit on it...sadly knowing what starfish are made of it would probably be hard.

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: Isn't it just!

@Esther: Hahah! Yeah, I doubt it's as comfortable as it looks!