What Is a Sea Star? | What Really Happened to the Starfish?

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“What Is a Sea Star? | What Really Happened to the Starfish?” We’ll learn about these amazing creatures, their survival skills, and existence in the ocean beds.

The name starfish was changed to sea star to make the distinction that they aren’t fish since they have no backbones. That’s what happened to the beautiful starfish we love … only a name change.

Sea stars have many relatives from either the same or a different class under the Phylum Echinodermata. The brittle star and basket star are examples.

Now that you know this simple explanation, let’s get started …

Sea Star, Starfish | It’s all the Same.

Despite the name change, many people are still sentimental about the word starfish. They already knew it wasn’t a fish, so a starfish by any other name will always be a starfish.

What is a sea star? They are star-shaped or asteroidal marine invertebrates known as echinoderms. For those who are interested in more complex classifications, here’s a breakdown …

  • Class: Asteroidea
  • Scientific Name: Asteroidea
  • Phylum: Echinodermata
  • Higher Classification: Asterozoa
  • Kingdom: Animalia

Sea stars live in many areas of salt water, or rarely in brackish water, including coral reefs in different climates. They even survive in sand over 20,000 feet deep!

They come in a large array of colors … mainly shades of blue, brown, gray, orange, purple, and red.

The protective outer shell may be smooth, spiny, or granular. They are mainly predators but have predators who are bigger or just able to outsmart them.

What-Is-a-Sea-Star-What-Happened-to-the-Starfish-DorsalA central body disc and 5 arms are typical features with many having up to 20, 40 or more. The mouth is in the center of their underside while the anus is on the upper side.

They have rows of small tubular feet on the underside of each arm operated by a water vascular or hydraulic system. These help them with movement and to capture prey.

These sea creatures do not have blood, instead their complex vascular system uses sea water to carry nutrients through their bodies.

Three interesting features about sea stars is their feeding habits, regenerative abilities, and methods of reproduction.

Feeding Habits: They feed in two different ways … eversion of their stomachs or suspension.

Regenerative Abilities: This is a rare feature. Some species of sea stars can regrow broken parts and will even shed a limb to escape from a predator.

Reproduction: Two ways in which they reproduce are asexually on their own or sexually with a mate.

Scientists have discovered more than 2,000 types of sea stars so far. They are closely related to sand dollars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins.

Brittle stars are also echinoderms similar to sea stars except that they have long thin arms. They belong to the class Ophiuroidea.

Basket stars are the largest ophiuroids with many branched arms and live mainly in deep sea habitats.

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Colorful Sea Stars or Starfish in the Ocean.

Starfish | The Predator.

They have a rich menu of molluscs such as clams, oysters, and snails, also small fish. The eversion technique is to extend the stomach through the mouth after attaching to their prey.

Strong acids from the stomach dissolve the trapped creature for easy entry into the stomach. Smaller organisms are swallowed whole and inedible parts passed back through the mouth.

Suspension feeding allows them to capture plankton and bacteria without much effort by the mucus coating on their arms. They then transfer them to their stomachs.

Plankton are microscopic and drift as they are carried along by the ocean’s motion. Phytoplankton refers to plants while zooplankton refers to animals.

Sea stars have eyes on the tip of each arm. Sensory nerves from their complex vascular system extend from the central disc to their arms make capturing food and feeding more convenient.

They are versatile in their activities even without having a brain.

Although they also have predators, their hard shells usually serve as a deterrent. Their tactic of shedding limbs that have been caught sometimes helps them to escape.

Some predators to sea stars are fish, otters, seagulls, sharks, stingrays, and other sea stars.

Growth and Regeneration | The Sea Star Way.

The life of a sea star begins in numerous ways even with similar species. Some are hatched from eggs fertilized mainly externally but also internally.

Sexes are not identifiable and some have both male and female organs. In other cases females split in half producing male offspring. It is believed that they eventually become females.

Development into actual young sea stars is also done in diverse ways. After fertilization, some eggs become attached to plants and rocks. Others are brooded in pouches by adults.

Every aspect of regeneration does not apply to all species of sea stars. Some regrow arms or a whole sea star from a broken off arm even small fragments of it. In the meantime the missing arm regrows.

Brittle stars or serpent stars also have the capacity to regenerate broken arms; however, they do not regenerate whole brittle stars.

The whole reproduction and regeneration processes among species are much more complex than will be explained here. This area alone makes quite an interesting study.

Sea stars self populate in accordance with favorable or non favorable conditions. It’s as though they’re making sure they aren’t outnumbered.

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Habitat | Home of the Stars.

Habitat life includes coral reefs, deep sand, kelp beds, rocky shores, sea grass, and tidal pools in a wide range of climates. They can live up to 35 years.

Wherever they are found in the entire global ocean … Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Southern or Antarctic … they prefer the ocean floor.

Sea stars are chiefly solitary creatures but are often found in clusters for feeding. Most of them move very slowly by way of their tubular feet. Others with a different mechanism can go faster.

Sea stars play an important role in coral reefs and the majority of species are considered beneficial in many ways. There are a few that are extremely dangerous to coral reefs and need to be controlled.

Two destructive kinds are crown-of-thorns sea stars found in the tropics and the northern Pacific sea star.

Starfish Wrap Up | Bullet Points.

Here’s a summary …

  • The sea star is the commonly known starfish and are echinoderms related to sand dollars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins. They lack backbones making them invertebrates unlike fish.
  • They sport a wide array of colors; have between 5 and over 40 arms; and have smooth, spiny, or granular shells.
  • These predators feed on molluscs as their primary source of food but also eat small fish.
  • Different species reproduce in different ways; however, variances are found in same species.
  • Regeneration of segments of their bodies or a whole sea star is a common way of life among many species.
  • Their habitat include coral reefs, rocky shores, deep sea, warm or cold climates, but not freshwater.
  • As beautiful and beneficial as they can be, some species are a real threat to the survival of coral reefs. Marine authorities are using methods to control the crown-of-thorns sea star and other dangerous species.

This is a very short version of what could be said about these creatures. I hope you enjoyed this article, “What Are Sea Stars? | What Really Happened to the Starfish?”

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. I will be more than happy to address them.

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Why Are Coral Reefs Important? | It’s An Underwater Ecosystem.

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A Bed of Corals

In this article, “Why Are Coral Reefs Important | It’s an Underwater Ecosystem,” we will explore the structure and inhabitants of this amazing beauty.

Coral reefs play a significant role in maintaining life in and out of the ocean. Many creatures spend their lives there seeking protection from predators and other threats.

Life would not be the same without this ecosystem that is constantly in danger of being destroyed. People carelessly disregard life underwater by exploitation and pollution.

Organizations around the world work rigorously to save coral reefs and their inhabitants from becoming extinct. This would affect not only these creatures but also humans.

Stories of mystical creatures such as mermaids are also a popular part of life in the ocean. Like most fairy tales, many individuals are fascinated by them.

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Fairy Tale Mermaid

The Coral Reef Ecosystem | More than Meets the Eye.

Corals are more than mere structures …

… They are living creatures called polyps related to the sea anemones and jellyfish. Their hard calcium carbonate skeletal system which they secrete is what we see as the reefs. The soft structures are on the inside.

There are many species of animal and plant life in the coral reef ecosystem. Some are indigenous to different regions of the world mainly in terms of climate.

Shallow-water reefs, which are vastly more common, thrive on it’s warm tropical climate. Energy and food come from the sunlight through photosynthesis.

Deep-sea reefs are found in colder and darker water which suits them. Food source and energy come from plankton and organic matter.

The categories that exist include …

  • Fish: Diverse kinds are found here and provide food for humans and predators.
  • Molluscs: This group includes limpets, octopus, slugs, snails, and squid. Some have shells; others don’t.
  • Echinoderms: Sea stars (starfish) belong to this group. They are interesting to study with their ability to reproduce themselves from broken off limbs.
  • Crustaceans: Crabs, lobster, shrimp are included in this group. They have outer jointed shells.
  • Sponges: These are animals that resemble plants. They are sessile meaning they attach themselves to a structure and stay fixed throughout their lives.
  • Plants: Marine plants are usually sea grasses, algae, and seaweed and come in various colors, sizes, and forms.

Everything in the ocean is either a predator or prey … the hunter or hunted … or both. There is a defined food chain ensuring the survival of the fastest, smartest, or strongest.

It is not unusual to hear references such as underwater rainforest, the most diverse and largest ecosystem on earth.

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Who Benefits from Coral Reefs? | Humanity.

The benefits of the coral reef ecosystem is widespread. So much is dependent on its existence.

Here are some benefits …

  • Coral reefs provide protection for coastlines during storms and from soil erosion.
  • They also provide protection for its diverse inhabitants.
  • They are a massive food source for its inhabitants as well as outsiders.
  • It’s a great source of income for people all over the world in many ways.
  • They attract tourists and locals for recreational and educational expeditions.
  • Organic foods, medicine, hair and skincare are a few products that are made from materials sourced here.

These are only a few good reasons why coral reefs are important.

Protection for Coastlines

The earth is subject to adverse effects from natural disasters such as storms and soil erosion. Coral reefs form a barrier along the coastlines helping to stabilize the effects of these conditions.

A Protective Habitat

For some organisms, it’s a lifetime abode; others only require a safe harbor until they can more safely fend for themselves. This is a good place for adults to lay their eggs where they are guarded against predators.

Significant Food Source

Fish and a good deal of other seafood are widely eaten around the globe so it’s important for human sustenance.

Income Generating

Ocean-related careers are extremely common. We find fishermen, fishmongers, restaurants, hotels, and other industries whose livelihood depends on the survival of coral reefs.

Many people spend their whole lives attending to matters relating to the ocean benefiting directly or indirectly. Families are often involved together. Fishing villages exist in seacoast communities.

Recreational and Educational

Tours are conducted for recreational as well as educational purposes. Tourists are eager to explore its beauty, students at all levels are taken on learning expeditions.

Organic and Medicinal

Organic products are a rave, and the ocean is one place to find an abundance of ingredients. Scientists and medical professionals are turning there to find cures for baffling diseases humanity faces.

There’s also the crave for acquiring wealth apart from searching for cures. This is similar to the way many individuals and industries have taken an interest in CBD.

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The Fishing Industry Benefits

How Ecosystems Work | The Underwater Tour.

Marine biology is a branch of marine science specializing in the study of marine life. Over 70 percent of the earth consists of the ocean. It has an extensive coastline and a depth of approximately four kilometers.

An expansive study of marine life and activities is divided into branches or sub-fields. All areas of study specialize in different aspects relating to structures, environment, relativity to each other, and so much more.

Oceanography, also called oceanology, is an example of a branch of ocean science.

As researchers explore coastlines and the depth of the ocean they make what are sometimes unbelievable discoveries. The diversity of species and the resemblance between some plants and animals are fascinating.

The relationship among the species is ongoing similar to other ecosystems in the universe.

Scuba diving and glass-bottom boating are popular ways to see some of these sights. There is still quite a lot to be known and discovered about the full spectrum of marine life.

The coral reef mini tour begins …

Zooxanthellae are uni-cell algae that live inside the coral-reef-building polyps. They contain chlorophyll that converts sunlight into food and energy in exchange for their protective abode.

These types of coral reefs are found in tropical and subtropical climates where they depend chiefly on sunlight. They thrive in shallow, clear, unpolluted water with the constant ebb and flow motion.

Marine life consists of microscopic organisms and very large creatures. Many of them live in the shelter of coral reefs. Fish may be the first that come to mind.

Well known food fish such as grouper and snapper take shelter here. They feed on plants, smaller organisms, and fragments of dead animals of any size. These are usually preyed upon by other creatures.

Fish are a food source for predators that prey on them. The food cycle can be a vicious one and some species are more susceptible than others. Thanks to hiding places and disguises, they sometimes escape.

Mankind rely heavily on fish and other seafood in their diet. The ecosystem relationship is seen here, from habitation in the reefs, fishing, vendors to individual and business consumers.

In this “tour” we’ll also find many species of echinoderms, one of the most common type being sea stars or star fish. There are over 2,000 documented types of sea stars.

The popularly known name starfish has been changed to sea stars as they aren’t fish at all.

There are also several classifications chiefly known for their five arms. Others have up to 20 or more with their skeletal structure on the outside for protection.

They are only found in the ocean in tropical or cold water and do not exist in freshwater.

Other interesting finds are crabs, shrimps, lobsters, sea fans, many species of plants such as plankton, which all provide food to other marine life and humans.

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Echinoderms in the Coral Reef Ecosystem

Protection Needed. | Time to Give Back.

The coral reef ecosystems provides protection for many forms of life; however, they also need protection. Humans pose a great threat in numerous ways.

  • Pollution occurs from individuals carelessly dumping trash directly into the ocean or along its shores. Some of these eventually get into the ocean.
  • Other forms of pollution come from all types of chemicals including insecticides, oils, and miscellaneous debris.
  • The growth of algae and other types of organisms increases due to pollution causing overcrowding and suffocation.
  • Corals come in various colors, shapes, and types. They are harvested illegally for personal use or sale as decorations and jewelry.
  • Illegal fishing of young fish and other seafood rob this habitat of mature ones for sustenance.
  • Fishing methods can be harmful when they cause damage to the reefs or expose animals from their safe hideouts.

These practices are especially harmful because corals grow very slowly and take a long time to replenish.

Stressful and disruptive situations cause the colorful algae living inside the polyps to die or leave the comfort of the coral. This results in the bleaching effect which destroys coral reefs.

Higher-than-normal temperatures from extreme climate change is one contributing factor to bleaching. This along with human habits are among the main concerns.

It’s a huge struggle to curb the careless, irresponsible behavior of people who litter the ocean and the appetite of those who carry out illegal activities.

Marine organizations do their best to control them by putting rules and regulations in place. Volunteers usually organize cleanup and educational campaigns.

Education is a key component though not everyone care enough to change their habits.
If everything was left to exposure to predators including mankind, more destruction would have been done.

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Volunteers Cleaning up the Ocean Front.

The Final Word. | Ecosystems Equal Collaboration.

Ecosystems are important for the protection and survival of its members … it’s a collaboration.

What goes on along the shoreline or in the depths of the ocean should not be taken lightly. There is a vast existence that many people couldn’t begin to imagine, best described as fascinating or magical.

There are predators that go after their prey in either ia subtle or aggressive manner. The vulnerable use camouflage to hide but the predators also use camouflage to trap their victims.

Collaboration includes the help of humans who are knowledgeable about the ocean bed. Organizations instill laws in an effort to ensure the survival of coral reefs in every region.

An interesting part of the ocean is the mystical stories that are very popular and continue to hold the attention of those who get a thrill out of these tales.

Some stories have been viewed in a negative light as being evil, and maybe rightly so. That doesn’t always deter individuals who grew up with the fascination of identifying with these mystical creatures.

We have the choice to determine what we believe to be mere stories and create our own versions if desired. Many stories have been recreated portraying them in a positive light.

That’s the beauty of the creative arts!

I hope this article, “Why are Coral Reefs Important? | It’s an Underwater Ecosystem,” has been informative and interesting to you.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. I will be more than happy to address them.

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The Amazing, Colorful, and Fascinating Underwater Ecosystem!

The Amazing, Colorful, and Fascinating Underwater Ecosystem!