Let's start with the fact that Starfish is NOT the right word to be calling these sea creatures!

The Starfish (real name Seastar...more on that later)  is one amazing creature. Here are six little-known facts about these creatures:

1. Besides its distinctive shape, the Seastar is famous for its ability to grow back lost arms and, in some cases, it's entire body! In fact, most or all of its vital organs are located in its arms.

2. This star of the sea eats like no other. Using tiny suction cups (or tube feet) that cover the underside of its arms, it pries open its meal. Shellfish like clams, oysters, and mussels are yummy to a Seastar. But just HOW do they eat these shellfish? The Seastar pushes its own stomach OUT of its body through its mouth, slides it into the open shell of its prey, and then envelops it, digests it, and, when the prey is reduces to slurry, the Seastar withdraws its now-fed stomach back into its body.

Gross!!! Imagine sending your own stomach 'out to eat'?!

3. Now for more about those tube feet on the Seastar. Each Seastar arm has hundreds to thousands of them. Besides holding onto prey, they are used for moving (including climbing up vertical surfaces) and attaching tightly to rocks. With so many feet, Seastars can reach enormous speeds. The speeds vary because there are about 2,000 different types of Seastars, but some have been clocked moving from between 60 to 240 feet per hour.

4. Seastars also see the world around them in an unusual way. Their eyes are located at the tip of each arm! They don't see in color and, like the eyes of crabs and spiders, they contain special receptors that sense and receive light.

5. Although up til now you have been calling this beloved creature a Starfish, this is NOT a fish at all. It's an echinoderm, which is closely related to sea urchins and sand dollars. The only thing it has in common with fish is that it lives underwater (exclusively saltwater.) For this reason, marine biologists prefer the term Seastar.

6. And one last fact: Seastars with 5 arms are the most common types, but varieties do exist with 10, 20, and even 40 arms!

Thank you to Claire at the NJ Sea Grant Consortium at Sandy Hook for all of this incredible info!

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