How much do you know about South Africa’s red sea star?

Posted by Taylah Strauss on 12 January 2022

Did you know that the red starfish has been renamed the red sea star? This is because starfish are not really fish at all; the only trait they share is that they live underwater.

Unlike fish, sea stars do not have fins, gills, or scales and they only live in saltwater. Sea stars are related to sand dollars and sea cucumbers – part of the class echinoderms – which means they have five-point radial symmetry, according to the National Ocean Service.

But this does not mean that sea stars are limited to five limbs, it’s just the amount they start with. If a sea star loses a limb, they can regenerate it, and sometimes they can generate more than one.

Here’s everything else you need to know about the red sea star.

Appearance

The red sea star’s scientific name is Callopatiria granifera. This one lives in the Two Oceans Aquarium.

The red sea star is covered in deep orange or red skin and has five fairly short arms that taper away from his body, according to Two Oceans Aquarium. Sea stars have tiny tube feet located on the underside of their bodies – which is flat – which allows them to walk and move around.

Diet

Red sea stars are detritivores, which means they feed on dead organic material, such as decomposing plants, animal tissue, and waste.

Habitat

They can be found intertidally. This refers to ecosystems found on marine or rocky shorelines. It is a complex habitat, as organisms living there must survive changes between low and high tide, according to National Geographic. All sea stars survive by anchoring themselves to the rocks.

Breeding

Sea stars reproduce uniquely. Female sea stars release eggs into the water, and male sea stars release their sperm into the water, where the eggs are fertilized. Shockingly, female sea stars can release up to 2.5 million eggs, according to Chesapeake Bay Program. The fertilized eggs develop into free-swimming larvae which settle after approximately three weeks, after which they morph into adults.

Distribution

Red sea stars can be found all along the South African coast.

Picture: flowcomm/Flickr Commons

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