Everything You Need to Know About Starfish
Starfish are beautiful, mysterious little creatures that are sure fun to look at. Did you know starfish can often be found along the shores of Topsail Island? It's super cool and exciting when you discover your first one, and what better place to go on the starfish hunt than right out the door of your Topsail Island vacation rental? Dive in and let's learn about these cool creatures!
WHAT EXACTLY IS A STARFISH?
Starfish, or sea stars, are not actually fish as their name implies. They do not have a backbone, which makes them fall into the family of invertebrates, similar to a sea sponge or urchin. We tend to think of starfish as a sort of collectible rock, but they are living, thriving animals!
Did you know there are around 2,000 species of starfish that have been discovered? That's a lot of starfish! They live in all kinds of various environments from tidal pools to coral reefs. In fact, some starfish live almost 30,000 feet below the surface of the ocean.
STARFISH ANATOMY 101
Typically, starfish have 5 legs (or arms, depending on what you prefer to call them!), but some types of starfish can grow up to 50 legs! There arms are covered in tiny little "suckers" that help them move along the ocean floor. Starfish are also capable of sensing light and dark, thanks to eyespots on the ends of their arms. These eyespots are visible and are usually red or black in color.
Starfish come in all kinds of sizes, shapes, and colors. Some even have beautiful patterns on their body that helps disguise them from predators such as various fish, sharks, rays, sea otters, and even seagulls.
WHAT IS A STARFISHES PURPOSE?
Starfish are known for being strong predators and are classified as carnivores. They will eat pretty much anything, including ocean debris, which helps keep the oceans clean and functioning properly.
They are also an important part of the food chain because, as mentioned above, they are hunted by several different animals as a food source.
THE EAT HOW?!
(Grab your kids, they'll LOVE this part!)
One of the most interesting things about starfish is how they eat! We know that they will eat basically anything, especially things like snails, clams, algae, and shellfish... but exactly how do they do it?
First, the starfish latches itself onto whatever it will be eating with its mouth centered over the chosen dinner. Then it throws its stomach up. Yes, you read that correctly.
The stomach then coats the prey in digestive enzymes that help break down the meal. Next, a separate part of the starfishes stomach envelopes the food and brings it into the starfishes body to work on completing the digestive process. Pretty wild, right?
Side note... some starfish will eat other starfish.
MORE COOL STARFISH FACTS
-Starfish do not have any blood, which mean they also have no heart. Instead, they circulate ocean water through a complex vascular system.
-Starfish also do not have a brain. They have a central nervous system that is very complex that allows them to move, eat, and do all the starfish things!
-They typically prefer to live alone but will gather in a group to eat.
-Starfish can regenerate their own body parts. Lost an arm? No problem, they just grow a new one!
-Their average lifespan in the wild is 35 years.
-What if you see a starfish on the beach and want to bring it home? (Of course, you shouldn't disturb or bring home a live starfish from the wild) How can you tell if it is no longer living? A starfish that is safe to bring home, similar to a shell, will be shriveled up and hard...like a shell.
Ready to hunt the beach to see if you can spot a starfish? One of our fantastic North Topsail Beach rentals is the perfect spot to call your beach adventure home base! Give us a call at 800-497-5463 and let our friendly vacation experts help start planning your relaxing beach vacay today.