Found a Five-legged Lined Sea Star

As we searched the low tide sandy areas of Three Sisters Islands my son called me over to see this five-legged sea star which I have since learned is called a Lined Sea Star. I’ve never seen a sea star, or starfish, while out on the boat, nor have I found one anyplace else on my Florida seashore travels along the central east coast.

This one was damaged and missing one-half of two legs with another leg broken and ready to detach. What was interesting was the star shapes next to him. The sea star was not moving and when we carefully touched him. I’m pretty sure he was dead, but they do move very slowly, so maybe not. I know next to nothing about them.

According to my Florida’s Living Beaches book (affiliate link to Amazon’s 2nd Edition of this book), the area of Florida where this sea star is usually found is not where I live. I was surprised to see it, and sorry that it seemed to be dead, or at the very least, in distress.

Either he flipped himself around and left these star shapes in the sand, or a predator did it. It’s a mystery. (Lot’s of things eat starfish. Fish, turtles, birds, and marine snails, to name a few.)

I took this photo, then moved him carefully to the deeper pool of water nearby, thinking he may have needed water. We see a lot of birds on this island, so maybe a bird snatched him up from somewhere and he died here. Or maybe he was having trouble moving with two legs partially missing! They can grow their legs back, so there is hope for him I suppose.

A few weeks later I also found a tiny sea star in this same area.

A lined seastar
Lined seastar – a rare sight in this area

This Lined Sea Star (Luidia clathrata) was aproximately 6 inches in size. The legs were very stiff and the color was slightly pinkish. I wish he had been alive, and he could have been, but just seeing a sea star out on the sand was quite an experience for me.

I also found a pretty awesome horse conch that was larger than the usual tiny specimens that the hermits occupy.

Whatever You Call Them, Starfish (or Sea Stars) Are Quite Amazing

Crown of Thorns Starfish
Image by quinet via Flickr

Say “starfish” and immediately you probably think, a white creature with five legs. Starfish, or sea stars come in various shapes and sizes and are quite amazing animals. They are very colorful. Starfish are usually white in color only when they have dried up and died.

Beach-combing for starfish would be a unsatisfying hobby. You may dream of finding a beautiful, collectable sea star just lying in the sand, but this is unlikely to happen. Sea stars stay in the water if possible.

The Crown of Thorns sea star is quite an amazing looking creature with spikes all over it (blue star pictured). It is poisonous and dangerous to humans as well as sea life. They eat coral and can be detrimental to coral reefs. They are found in the Indio-Pacific region.

For the most part, starfish don’t harm people.

About Echinoderms

Sea stars are “echinoderms” along with sea urchins, sea cucumbers and sand dollars. They have an exoskeleton and radial symmetry which means that all their legs grow from a central body. They can be found in an array of colors including red and purple and are found in shapes that don’t look anything like you’d expect.

All photos here are courtesy of Pixabay photographers.

The Feather Sea Star

This video is quite amazing. Search for feather sea stars at YouTube to see more feather stars.

The sea star is always found living in salt water. Usually the best place to look for them (to photograph only – no collecting living creatures!) is around rocks and in shallow water. They are nocturnal to avoid predators. This fascinating marine life is even able to regenerate limbs and divide themselves to become two!

Brittle Star – Pixabay image

About Florida Starfish

Florida has three types of starfish: the Lined sea star, the Thorny starfish, and the Nine-legged starfish. (Starfish and sea star are interchangeable here.)

The starfish in the mud is one I photographed while walking the mud flats on the Indian River lagoon at low tide. He was missing parts of two legs and another leg was broken. Read more here.

I don’t have photos to share of the 9-legged, or 9-arm starfish but here is a video that will give a good look at one. They are mainly found in south and west Florida.