Sunday, October 11, 2009

Simply Starfish!

Am fascinated by these creatures!  We are so lucky in the Northwest to have so many varieties and colors - blues, greens, orange and many shades of purple. The neon purple of the starfish to the left is real, and  not retouched by photoshop! (Trust me, I haven't found my disk yet to install on my new laptop! )

The following pictures are a collection of starfish photos that I have collected all summer to share with my beachcombing fans. I have been so fortunate to have lived all of my life by the water, sometimes I forget how lucky!  Many of these photos were taken at minus tides right here on my family's beach, at nearby Manchester State Park, or at Waterman Dock, also within minutes of my house.  Hope you enjoy and learn a little too!

Starfish are best found at very low tides, and can be easily found clutching pilings, in tidepools, and hiding in rock crevices.  They are classified as "echnoderms", with knobby spines on their backs, their skin has soft fuzzy clumps of oxygen absorbing tissue. 

Each of their feet is tipped with a tiny suction cup which helps a starfish hang on tight when a wave washes over them.  So cool; having neither heads, nor tails, they can change direction without turning around! Using their tube feet, starfish can pry open mussels, clams and even oysters ( my dad HATES starfish for this reason!) just enough to insert their inside-out stomachs into their prey's shell and digest their victim.  

Six-Rayed Star: Usually smaller starfish, lead-gray, olive-green, or orange with pinkish tones. Found a few of these! They feast on barnacles (our beaches are a smörgåsbord of barnacles!), small snails, small sea cucumbers and chitons.  They can be found in low tide zones from Puget Sound to the Channel Islands off of the California Coast.  I am guessing that this picture to the left is a six-rayed star, it was small, and sort of orange-brown..

Found one Sunflower Star. The one that I did find was very small and delicate. They start life with six arms, but can grow up to 40 cm across, and 24 arms! Orange, grey-blue or purple, they are soft and limp out of the water with very breakable arms. Enjoying a menu of urchins, clams, mussels, and dead fish (they pretty much eat anything!), the sunflower starfish moves very fast and is the largest intertidal star on the Pacific Coast. 

No worries if a starfish loses an arm - they can easily regenerate a new one! Check out this blue starfish that I found on the beach one day when we were hunting for rock crabs...  Can you see the start of a new arm growing?

Ochre Star: These can grow up to 30 cm across, with rows of white tipped spines running down their arms.  They are rough to the touch, and can be found mostly in shades of purples, reds, oranges. Slow growing, and dining on mussel shells, barnacles, limpets, snails and of course, oysters, this is the species that is the most common around my neighborhood. 

 Sorry that the photo of some very large deep brick-red starfish are hard to see! They were clinging to rocks, just barely underwater, near the Waterman Dock.  I was amazed at their gorgeous color..

Found a few green Ochre Stars, so unusual!

At Manchester State Park, Alex and I had the best time scrambling over the rocks hunting for starfish in all of the crevices.  There were some areas that I could not climb down, so thank goodness that my son has no fear!  Here he is getting the shots of the small bright orange starfish that he found in a tidepool.

Final photos are some of the ones that we found stuck in the rocks at Manchester - come starfish hunting with us next time.  I think I am getting to be an expert on where to find them!


Anonymous said...

Had a great time on all of my beach adventures!

Unknown said...

Wow, most painless marine biology lesson ever!

Lynne said...

Wow - so cool! I'll never look at starfish the same again.. Thanks!

millhill said...

Great sea star photos!! I am linking you to a lens I am writing on this subject.
Keep taking photos!!

Everything Coastal said...

Thanks for all of your comments - and especially for the link!


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