Marine Biology

Types of Starfish Found on British Shorelines



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Brittle stars, feather stars, cushion stars, sunstars, the common starfish and sand stars are all types of sea stars, or starfish, found on the British shorelines. These are all part of the echinodermata family. Sea stars like shallow and rocky waters. They catch food with their tentacles. They can also live in deep water, safe from seagulls and other birds that would eat them.

Cushion stars do not really look like sea stars. They have a slime that they use to chase away predators. They have the five arms that other starfish have. They are purplish in color. Find them south and west of the British Isles. Scientists use the slime in making steroids.

Common starfish are orange or red. They live in the mussel beds of N.E. Atlantic Ocean. Like all starfish, they have five arms. They eat mollusks, carrion, fish eggs and mussels. As long as the central disc functions well, the starfish can repair itself. The starfish can grow to 50 cm. Starfish is a misnomer as it is not a fish. Sea star is the accepted name favored by researchers and scientists.

Sunstars like the beach at Winthrope, Lincolnshire. They feed on the common starfish, brittle stars and sea cucumbers. They can have as many as fourteen arms. They are red, brown or purple with small white bands circling the disc. They live as far as 50 meters below the tideline. The can grow to 35 cm across. Find them during spring tide in tidepools.

Sand stars look like flattened starfish. They are thinner than the common sea star. They are the color of sand as their name implies. They live in mud or sand. They hide under the sand if disturbed. They have purple tips at the end of their five arms. They like the Shetland Islands, Orkneys, west coasts of Scotland, England and Ireland. Find them in Aberdeen, St. Andrews Bay and along the Northumberland coast.     

Brittle stars are not so easy to see unless you are a diver. They live mostly in deep water over sixteen meters. However, they do come up occasionally and live in the reefs. Brittle stars have five long arms which help them move around. The creatures are expert hiders, one of the main reasons why they are not so easy to find. Brittle stars also live inside other organisms.

Feather stars are similar to brittle stars, but they have ten arms instead of the brittle star's five arms. Food comes to them on the ocean currents. They don't go wandering after food. Find them near moderate currents. They rest on tops of ledges and on other animals. They often camouflage themselves near hydroids and bryozoa making them difficult to find. They mostly live in the seas around the British Isles. These are generally rosy-colored. Two other types found in the north are brown or orange. These live in deeper water in Scotland, the northern Irish Sea, and Rathlin Island. During the day, they usually curl up their arms.



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