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Sea Stars


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Sea stars (also known as starfish) are spiny, hard-skinned animals that live on the rocky sea floor. These invertebrates are NOT fish; they are echinoderms. Sea stars move very slowly along the sea bed, using hundreds of tiny tube feet. There are over 2,000 different species of sea stars worldwide.

Reproduction: Most species of starfish expel enormous numbers of eggs and sperm into the ocean; fertilization is external. After fertilization, the tiny, transparent, bilaterally-symmetrical larvae (baby sea stars) travel many miles as they are swept along by ocean currents for about two months. As they develop, the tiny larvae swim in the sea, eat phytoplankton, and are a component of zooplankton.

Diet: Sea stars are carnivores (meat-eaters). They eat clams, oysters, coral, fish, and other animals. They push their stomach out through their mouth (located on the underside of the sea star) and digest the prey.

Anatomy: Most sea stars have five arms (or a multiple of five) that radiate from a central disk. Sea stars do not have a brain; they have a simple ring of nerve cells that moves information around the body. Eyespots (primitive light sensors) are at the tip of each arm. If a sea star's arm is cut off, it will regenerate (regrow).

Classification: Kingdom Animalia (animals), Phylum Echinodermata (echinoderms), Class Asteroidea (sea stars), about 2,000 species.

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