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3 Marvelous Species of Sea Stars

Sea stars are beautiful, fascinating creatures, and they are also incredibly diverse– there is much more to the genus Asteroida than the five-armed common sea star we know and love. Sea stars come in a variety of different colors, shapes, arm-counts, sizes, living anywhere from the shallow coastlines of the gulf of california to the darkest depths of the pacific ocean. Below are three of my favorite species of sea stars!


1- Chocolate Chip Sea Star (Protoreaster nodosus)


This beautiful creature is the horned sea star, but often goes by its eccentric nickname– chocolate chip sea star. As you may have guessed, it’s name is derived from the chocolate chip shaped horns on its back. These protrusions help the chocolate chip sea star look more dangerous to predators. These sea stars live on the shallow waters of the Indo-Pacific oceans, preferring to shelter on sandy ocean bottoms as opposed to hard coral reefs. Unfortunately, chocolate chip sea star populations have been decreasing recently due to overharvesting caused by the increased demand for it’s beautiful skeleton. To help these little guys out, if you ever go touring in tropical Asian or Pacific countries, please refrain from participating in such damaging wildlife trade by not purchasing any sea star ornaments.


2- Sunflower Sea Star (Pycnopodia helianthoides)


One, two, three, four, five, ...., nineteen, twenty! This marvelous creature, known as the sunflower sea star, distinguishes itself from other sea stars in that it can have anywhere from sixteen to twenty four arms. They also boast an impressive arm span of 1m, which is a staggering 3.3ft for all you imperial system users out there. Sunflower sea stars used to thrive in the northern Pacific, but have faced huge decline in populations in recent years due to the sea star wasting disease, (you can learn more about this disease in our article here) and increasing ocean temperatures. Research shows that sunflower sea stars went extinct in the coasts of oregon and california, and faced a 99% decrease in population in the coast of Washington. Before you get all teary, hey, you can help these marvelous creatures out by recycling, reducing energy usage, and spreading awareness about climate change.


3- Doughboy Sea Star (Choriaster granulatus)


Granulated sea star, cushion sea star, big-plated sea star, and doughboy sea star: our last species of sea star goes by many different names. The doughboy sea star, although not nearly as complex as the previous two starfish described, surely deserves a spot on this list due to how irresistibly endearing it looks. This sea star has a medium-sized pale pink body with five short, stubby arms, and is completely harmless to humans. They reside primarily in Indo-West pacific regions, feeding on small invertebrates. If you noticed a theme here, the doughboy sea stars are also threatened by the wildlife trade caused by the increased demand for pet sea stars. If you ever want to get a sea star as a pet, please make sure to keep in consideration that certain species of sea stars (including the doughboy sea stars) do not thrive in captivity, and if you must, purchase from a reliable sea star seller. 




Sources:

http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/echinodermata/asteroidea/protoreaster.htm

https://www.tfhmagazine.com/articles/saltwater/protoreaster-nodosus

https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Pycnopodia_helianthoides/

https://www.centralcoastbiodiversity.org/sunflower-star-bull-pycnopodia-helianthoides.html

https://www.whatsthatfish.com/fish/granulated-sea-star/325


Photo credit:

https://www.marinefishez.com/inverts-mmore/starfish-urchin/chocolater-star-detail

https://www.adn.com/nation-world/2019/02/01/colorful-sea-star-stricken-by-disease-vanishes-from-most-of-the-west-coast/

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/122003-Choriaster-granulatus





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