Sunday, September 11, 2011

Creature Feature: Brittle Star.

Echinoderms are darn strange compared to what we usually think of as animals. They have pentaradial  symmetry (that is, the creature is split into 5 even sides instead of two), mouths on the bottom of their bodies, no real cephalization to speak of, and have "tentacle rape" written all over them. Or "Facehugger," take your pick.

In conclusion: This blog needs more starfish, dammit!

(Yes, they can be legally kept as pets.)

That's a rather strange starfish, no? Brittle stars (Ophiuroidea) do not look like Patrick or any other friendly starfish you can name. With their spindly legs, quick movements, and bands, they almost look more like five snakes joined at the cloaca (those stars above have "serpent" in their name, for example). They are found everywhere in the ocean, from reefs to the deepsea abyss. A few even live in brackish water. Some of the abyssal ones glow in the dark!

No two are exactly alike!

Brittle stars are so named because their arms are, well...brittle. Unlike more fleshy starfish, the arms of brittle stars are covered in segmented armor. These arms have no tube feet, and can break off easily to allow the star to escape.

These starfish are the unholy eldritch lords of regeneration. Starfish, as a general rule, can regenerate their limbs. Brittle stars are the masters of this, being able to regenerate segment-by-segment unless all arms are lost. A certain group of brittle stars called Amphiuridae can regenerate sexual organs and innards. Some can even perform binary fission with little harm. In other words, brittle stars make themselves very hard to kill.
MWAHAHA, they're gonna take over the world!

Fun fact: Although brittle stars are not toxic, they are among the few animals that humans have not yet found a way to eat. Trust us, the list is very small.

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