While beach-combing at Three Sisters islands I made a fun discovery. This tiny sea star was just lying in the mud, upside-down. He is so small that I had trouble figuring out which was his top and which was his bottom. He is about the size of my fingernail.
This is exactly how I found him. He was out of the water and turned over. The sun was hot and as I gently moved him, he seemed to be alive. It could have been my imagination, but as I turned him over I think his legs were curling in. He wasn’t hard and brittle.
I had to assume he was alive, but needed water. The tide had gone out and left him stranded. All Florida starfish live in sandy shallows and can become stranded when the tide goes out, or if waves from a storm wash them ashore. I don’t like to mess with nature, but I’m sure he would have dried out and died if left upside down in the sun.
After getting these photos I took him over to a pool and set him down. I don’t know much about sea stars (or starfish) and never find them out on our island excursions. But, I did find a lined sea star a few months ago. That was my first. This one was so small I nearly overlooked it.
I hope he lived.
It might be time for me to do some research into sea stars. According to my Florida’s Living Beaches book (this is an Amazon affiliate link), none of the typical starfish found around Florida are super common in my area. The only ones mentioned are the Lined Sea Star, Nine-armed sea star, and the Thorny Starfish. This one is obviously not 9-armed, and my guess would be it’s a baby Lined starfish. It doesn’t look like the Thorny variety.
Video of a Thorny Starfish, Naples Florida (West Coast)
The man in the video doesn’t say, but this sea star is a Thorny starfish according to my book. They are more commonly found in south Florida and along the Gulf Coast.
This type of starfish feeds on clams and mussels by suctioning the shell open enough to fit its stomach inside to digest the animal.
The Shape of Life website has time lapse videos about starfish and how they hunt and what they eat. View it here at Echinoderms: the Ultimate Animal – For Online Learning