Wednesday 14 March 2018

Red Cushion Sea Star

Image: James St. John
Oreaster reticulatus
This is quite possibly the most uncomfortable cushion I've ever seen.

Reaching up to 50 cm (20 in) across, Red Cushion Sea Stars are big starfish found in warm, shallow waters in the Caribbean and nearby western Atlantic regions.

Image: Ochoa, Edgardo
Some Red Cushions are significantly more red than others
They belong to Oreasteridae, the same family as the plump and way more comfortable-looking Cushion Stars of the Indo-Pacific.

I for one know where I'll be sitting...

Image: Sean Nash
Not exactly cushy, is it?
The Red Cushion Sea Star's scientific name, Oreaster reticulatus, means something like 'reticulated mountain star,' which is a lot more accurate if you ask me.

A reticulum is a network or net-like structure. Take a look at the Red Cushion's knobbly surface and you'll see the red background set off with a network of yellow lines. I could wear it, maybe? The only thing stranger than a five-pronged red satin hat with a network of gold needlework and a sprinkling of gold beads... is to sit on it.

Image: Kevin Bryant
The tiny brittle stars would have to go, though.

Video: FamousHamas
When the mountain goes to Muhammed...

Speaking of which, imagine being a tiny anything when this mountain wanders by on thousands of jelly-feet!

Not that most other creatures have much to fear. Some Red Cushion Sea Stars feed on sponges if they must but most hang out in fields of eelgrass and eat whatever's beneath their tube-feet. Their diet probably includes the eelgrass itself, whatever tiny creatures couldn't get away, and the ever-present "organic detritus."

Image: Kevin Bryant
And what goes in must come out, at which point it's more of a reticulated volcano star.

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