Why do starfish need help and how can we assist them? Before I explain all of that I will inform you a bit about what starfish are, their characteristics, how they eat and how they reproduce.
Starfish aren't really fish at all, which is why the more fitting name is sea star. Sea stars are marine animals, they are echinoderms and belong to the Asteroidea family. They are found in all oceans across the planet and can be found in the intertidal zone to the abyssal zone, which is about 6000 m below the surface. Sea stars can live up to 35 years and a reason why is because they can regenerate their arms up to half their body.
Sea stars reproduce sexually. The female disperses her eggs outside of her body and then the male comes and fertilizes them. Although they reproduce sexually, they can also reproduce asexually by regenerating a whole new body. This mean that if they are cut in half they can regenerate fully with both halves.
Sea stars have many visual characteristics, such as five or more arms. The top half, also know as the aboral surface, has three main components. The madreporite controls the entry of ocean water, the anus releases waste and the place the legs meet is called the central disc. The oral surface (the bottom) contains the mouth, the ambulacral groove are spines that run the length of the arms and is protected by the tube feet.
Sea stars digest their prey outside of their bodies by regurgitating their stomachs out through the mouth. They eat mollusks (clams, mussels, oysters, etc.). Sea stars eat mollusks because they also live on rocks and move slowly, which makes them easy targets. They grab onto them by their suction-cupped feet.
Sea stars need our help. In 2013, sea stars developed a disease that is now called sea star wasting syndrome. The U.S National Park Service says "This mortality event impacted 20 species of sea stars from Mexico to Alaska and decimated many sea star populations across the northern Gulf of Alaska." What is this mysterious disease you may ask? Well nobody really knows which is why it is so mysterious. Symptoms include white lesions, body fragmentation, and then death.
How can we help the sea stars? We can help by donating to research labs and organizations that have been helping protect our oceans. For example Ocean conservancy is a great organization to donate too. We can also help by raising awareness.
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