Did you know that there are over 1,500 different types of starfish species in the world?
Despite their name, starfish are not actually a type of fish, even though they live underwater. Starfish, or Sea Stars actually come from the Echinoderm family and are closely related to sea urchins and sand dollars.
Typical starfish characteristics include 5 distinct arms, however there are some types of starfish which have many more. They come in a range of striking colours and patterns which helps ward off predators. One of the most fascinating starfish facts is that they have the unique ability to regenerate their limbs, should they incur any loss through predator attacks or injury.
A starfish’s habitat is strictly salt water as they do not survive in freshwater, however they are able to live in all kinds of climates, from warm to cold seas.
Here we take a look at 5 different types of starfish and what makes them so special.
Sunflower Sea Star
With an impressive arm span of up to 1 meter, the Sunflower Sea Star is the oceans largest known starfish species. These beasts have between 16-24 limbs making them highly efficient predators.
With over 15,000 tiny tube feet on the underside of their bodies, the Sunflower Sea Star moves fast to capture its prey, feeding on sea urchins, clams and even other different types of starfish.
The Sunflower Sea Star can be found in the Northeast Pacific, in areas abundant with kelp and seaweed. However in recent years, this particular starfish habitat has been affected by rising water temperatures due to climate change, causing a steep decline in the species.
The jewel-like Necklace Starfish or Fromia monilis (the starfish’s scientific name) is one of the most striking Echinoderm species.
Their starfish characteristics include an intricate marbled body, covered in eye-catching dots in all shapes and sizes. The tips of their arms are usually a vibrant red colour which enables them to ward off prey.
The Necklace Starfish live in depths of up to 50 meters in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. They are a relatively small species, growing to a maximum of 30cm in diameter. Necklace Starfish eat invertebrates, encrusting sponges and algae using their tiny tube-like feet to gorge on their next meal.
The adorable Choriaster or Doughboy Starfish as it is affectionately known, live in the tropical waters of East Africa, the Indo-Pacific and as far as Papua New Guinea. Choriaster starfish prefer to live in warm shallow waters and can exist both alone or living in a group amongst coral sponges and rubble slopes.
The recognisable characteristics of the Doughboy make them an easy starfish species to identify because of their cute rounded bodies and five stubby arms. These sea stars are usually found with pale pink colourings and an attractive papillae patterned center.
Many often wonder how and what starfish eat. The Choriaster absorbs its prey (mostly coral polyps) through its mouth which is located on the underside of its body.
One of the most intriguing starfish traits is that they have a fully retractable stomach. By extending this out from their mouths, starfish break down their prey into a soft slushy substance which is easier for them to drink up and digest.
Crown of Thorns Starfish
The Crown of Thorns Starfish or COTS, is one of the largest types of starfish in the world. Reaching lengths of nearly 1 meter, these precarious sea stars are covered in hair-raising spikes which are venomous to marine creatures and humans.
This starfish species is found throughout the Indo-Pacific from the Red Sea and East Africa, across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, to the west coast of Central America.
One of the most noteworthy Crown of Thorns Starfish facts include their great ability to feed on living coral colonies. By using their highly flexible bodies and hundreds of tube feet to latch onto the surface of the reef, an individual Crown of Thorns Starfish can chomp their way through up to 6 square metres of reef per year.
This has been known to cause devastation to coral reefs particularly if there is an outbreak of 30 or more starfish.
Chocolate Chip Sea Star
The Chocolate Chip Sea Star, or the starfish’s scientific name Protoreaster Nodosus can be found in the Indo-Pacific waters of Eastern Indonesia, such as Raja Ampat, and the Solomon Islands.
This starfish species thrive in shallow sandy areas but can also live on coral reefs up to 30 metres deep.
The Chocolate Chip Starfish is easily identified by the distinctive brown cones which protrude from its back. These unique starfish characteristics look noticeably similar to a chocolate chip cookie - hence their comical nickname!
This type of starfish grow up to 40cm in length and come in a wide variety of shades, ranging from light tan through to a deep red colour.
If you love Starfish!
Don’t forget that a portion of every purchase made at Citrus Reef goes towards coral conservation of efforts across the globe!
I grew up on the New England coast. One of our favorite pastimes was who could find the different types of sea stars and we played with horse shoe crabs. Yes we played with them! Was unaware of the venom in their tails. Our grandfather told us not to step on them because we could get hurt. It’s surprising what a person can find as a kid when fears haven’t even begun to surface. Miss those days.