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11 Starfish Defense Strategies

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Starfish defense is as simple as it is necessary. Yes, these animals have their own protection strategies. They are predators of small animals (mussels, oysters, and crabs), some even devour corals.

Evolution has also allowed them to develop strategies to defend themselves against predators.  Spines that hurt reckless mouths, camouflaging abilities, repellent chemicals that keep away big fish, sharks, and manta rays are some of starfish defense strategies. But what is the starfish protection strategy to defend themselves from humans? How can we defend starfish from altered and hostile environments?

The aim of this article is ambitious. We know that knowing something is the first step to appreciating it and it is a fact that those things you love, you protect.

So first, we will look at some of the self-defense strategies of starfish and then, we will review how we can protect them. Are you in?

Starfish Defense: Natural Survival Strategies

The estimates say there are about 1,500-2,000 species of sea stars, and all are marine animals. None live in freshwater. The evolution of the different species has led to self-defense strategies appropriate to the ecosystem they inhabit and the predators that threaten them. But starfish do not have brains, so how do they know when to protect themselves?

1. A complex nervous system, the first starfish defense

They do not have a brain, indeed, but they do have a complex nervous system under the skin. A network of intertwined nerves. Here is the first defense of starfish: they are sensitive to touch, light, temperature, orientation, water conditions.

Some species can even see because they have eyes at the end of each leg. They also generate neurotransmitters. These proteins serve to regulate the activity of other cells and thus react to external stimuli.

2. Spines and armor to protect starfishes

Many species of starfish live in shallow water, in the middle of sandy areas where there is hardly anything to hide in.

One of the starfish defense strategies is the calcified skin that forms a kind of armor around them. Others have long, sharp spines that give painful lessons to the mouths of reckless predators.

3. Chemicals for starfish protection

Other sea stars have a gelatinous structure, such as the sea stars of the genus Hymenaster, which spurts mucus at potential predators to deter them.

There are also species extremely venomous, such as the Acanthaster planci,, which in addition to its very long spines, its skin contains toxins that cause pain and irritation.

On the other hand, these animals live in the sea surrounded by bacteria, larvae, viruses, and all kinds of pathogenic microorganisms. However, they have a non-stick surface that prevents them from sticking to them. Scientists are studying the chemical substances that coat them. They could be a source of new medicines in the not-too-distant future.


4. Digging as a starfish defense strategy

Sea stars of the order Paxillosida are experts in digging in the sand to look for prey such as urchins, clams, snails, or other shellfish. This strategy, in addition to feeding, serves as protection. Their shape is barely visible if it is buried in the sand. So, they go unnoticed by predators.

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5. Regeneration, survival rather than starfish defense

As good echinoderms, starfish can regenerate lost limbs. Shedding a limb half devoured by a predator allows them to flee. There have been cases of starfish which regenerated up to half of their body.

Starfish protection: conservation strategies

In addition to predators, starfish face other threats.

  • Water pollution
    These animals pump seawater into their bodies and do not have a well-developed filtration system. Therefore, a polluted ecosystem can drastically reduce the populations of these animals.
  • Extraction from the water
    It only takes 3 to 5 minutes for a starfish to suffocate to death out of the water.

Taking it out and putting it back in is not a solution either, but rather torture as in the movies. Do you remember those scenes in which someone tries to get the character to confess by pushing his or her head into a bucket of water and pulling it out? For starfish, it would be worse because they can die from stress.

So, the starfish defense strategies are simple:

  1. Avoid being a source of water pollution (do not litter, avoid non-biodegradable sun creams, reduce the use of non-reusable plastics).
  2. Alert the authorities about sources of pollution that can harm starfish, for example, oil or chemical spills in the sea.
  3. Denounce the starfish trade to competent bodies.
  4. Take action when you see someone taking starfish out of the water. Explain this behavior it is killing the starfish.
  5. Report on social networks photos and videos of persons that persist in performing any of the above-mentioned behavior.
  6. Learn about these animals. This way, you will not only know how to protect starfish, but you will also have a greater appreciation for them.

We have tried to do that in this article. We write to provide information for the starfish defense. Can we count on you? Starfish do.