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Feature Creature - Starfish

Credits: Paul Naylor

Starfish live throughout the oceans of the world, from the tropics to the arctic regions.  In the UK you might find a starfish if you look in a rock pool at low tide.  Starfish are not actually fish, they belong to the animal family of Echinoderms, which means ‘spiny skinned’.  They don’t have a brain, but instead use nerves in their skin to sense what is going on around them.  They can also sense light and dark by using their eye spots which are located on the end of each arm, they can’t see actual objects though.

Getting around
Starfish have hundreds of tube like feet on the underside of their arms which they use to move around with.  They don’t have a front or a back so they can move in any direction without having to turn around.  Despite having hundreds of feet, starfish can’t move that fast so they often fall victim to an attack, but if that happens they have a brilliant escape plan!  If they are being held by an arm, they can lose that arm to try to get away.  Amazingly they can then regrow any arms that they have lost!



What’s for lunch?
Starfish are carnivores – they eat other animals – and they have rather gruesome table manners.  Starfish have a mouth-like opening on their underside which they use for eating, but rather than putting food into their mouths, many species actually push their entire stomach out through their mouth to get at their grub!  Common starfish like to eat mussels and can prize the shells apart to get to the mussel inside.  As soon as the shell opens just a crack, the starfish pushes its stomach outside of its body and sticks it into the shell.  The mussel is then digested straight into the starfish’s stomach! Weird or what?!



Starfish you might see:
When we think of starfish we often imagine the Common Starfish which is usually orange in colour and has five arms, but actually there are lots of different species of starfish to be found in the UK, and not all of them have five arms.  Here are some to look out for:




Common Starfish
    Common Starfish

 

 

 


Sunstar    Sunstar

 

 

 

 


Cushion Star
    Cushion Star

 

 

 


Brittle Star     Brittle Star

 

 

 

Read about other Feature Creatures

 

Visit the Common Starfish species page

Visit the Common Sunstar species page

Visit the Common Brittle Star species page

 

 

Article by Sadie McGlone

Image credits: Common Starfish (c) Lizzie Wilberforce, Cushion Star & Brittle Star (c) Paul Naylor / Sunstar (c) Polly Whyte