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Starfish or Sea Star?

Posted by Greg on November 30, 2011

"Red-knobed Starfish" Photo by Adrian Pingstone (Wikimedia Commons)

Starfish, as sea stars were previously known, come in more varieties than I once thought. For one, they sometimes have more or fewer legs than the five we typically think of, and for another, there are thousands of species of this beautiful sea creature.

According to National Geographic, “marine scientists have undertaken the difficult task of replacing the beloved starfish’s common name with sea star because, well, the starfish is not a fish. It’s an echinoderm, closely related to sea urchins and sand dollars. There are some 2,000 species of sea star living in all the world’s oceans, from tropical habitats to the cold seafloor. The five-arm varieties are the most common, hence their name, but species with 10, 20, and even 40 arms exist.”  Some species have only four arms.

Giant sea star (sand star). Photo by NOAA (Wikimedia Commons)

Eleven Armed sea star. Photo by de.Benutzer:Hase (Wikimedia Commons)

Sea Stars come in many different, often brilliant colors. They use color to camouflage themselves for protection or to scare off potential predators. Another interesting fact from National Geographic is that “beyond their distinctive shape, sea stars are famous for their ability to regenerate limbs, and in some cases, entire bodies. They accomplish this by housing most or all of their vital organs in their arms. Some require the central body to be intact to regenerate, but a few species can grow an entirely new sea star just from a portion of a severed limb.”

Sea Stars are frequently found in tide pools. Please follow “Tide Pool Etiquette” while studying them in their element. *You might also be interested in our post on Morro Bay tidepooling*

Happy Sea Star searching!

3 Responses to “Starfish or Sea Star?”

  1. They are amazingly cute creatures with very tiny feet on its five sides.

  2. Dave said

    What are they renaming dogfish and sea cucumbers as then? There are plenty of names that are apocryphal or just plain wrong if taken at face value.

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