Sunday, February 6, 2011

Creature Feature: Purple and Orange Starfish.

Y'know what? This entry does not need a fancy intro. There have been so many people asking what the hell this starfish is, or if it is even real, that mere confirmation of its status as a real animal merits a blog entry. After all, who would believe that an animal could naturally be orange and purple?

Well, this one is. The purple and orange starfish's scientific name is Astropecten articulatus- no reference to its bizarre coloration at all. It is also called the royal starfish, which is likely a reference to purple being a regal color. It is fairly common along the southeastern U.S. coast and, like all starfish, is predatory.

That is really all that is special about this particular starfish. Oh, wait...starfish are pretty darn weird anyways. No, we are not talking about Patrick's desire to taste the rainbow.

There's nothing REMOTELY suspect about this image. Nope.

On an embryonic level, starfish are much closer to us than most other invertebrates. They are deuterosomes; that is, the first opening of a baby starfish and a baby vertebrate becomes the anus, whereas in most others it becomes the mouth. We both start life wanting to crap before eating; lovely.

Starfish, like all echindoderms, exhibit pentaradial symmetry- that is, their body is divided into five fairly-even chunks instead of two. There are a few starfish species that break this rule, but otherwise, it's solid. It is safe to say that everything one arm has, the others usually do as well. Yes, this includes starfish junk and eyes.

The appendages are lined with tube feet on the bottom, allowing the starfish to move about and pry open bivalves. They are also part of the starfish's hydraulic circulatory system; basically, starfish use a dot in the center of themselves called a madreporite to gather the water that they use for moving, respiration and digestion.

The mouth is in the center of those arms. Starfish wrap themselves around potential prey and work from there, usually extending their own stomachs outwards towards their food. One of the few notable things about the royal starfish besides it wacky colors is that it, unlike other starfish, swallows its food whole; the food is already slightly digested by the time that it gets to the starfish's stomach. Oh, and it's purple, but haven't we covered that enough already?

No. No, we have not.
For a starfish, this colorful specimen is hardly weird. That is not saying much; starfish are pretty weird themselves.

Tomorrow: An animal so intense that it merits its own energy drink...or at least a Powerthirst reference. For some reason, the most fearless animal in nature has neither.

Also, lots of pics came from this awesome page. Thanks SO much for being an informative source as opposed to "OMG A PURPLE AND ORANGE STARFISH!"

1 comment:

  1. Look at this one! Iconaster longimanus: