Monday, May 10, 2004

We celebrated Mother's Day with a hike into the wilderness of Cape Roger Curtis. It was a beautiful day and the tide was really low, so I was able to get a photo of these ochre sea stars.

These are the dominant intertidal starfish of our island. Down near the bottom of the intertidal zone, you'll see them piled up one on another in these large groups, feeding on barnacles, mussels, sea urchins and other hard shelled creatures. The stars eat by pulling open the shell of the prey and then inserting it's stomach into the animal, where it digests the prey from within. The results of course, are beaches littered with all kinds of shells. Yesterday I found a small sea urchin shell, an unusual find in the intertidal zone.

These are pretty remarkable creatures as any number of sources will tell you. They are tough, and resist drying, and so they can stay out of the water for up to 50 hours. Like all sea stars, they can replace broken or eaten limbs and they can live up to 20 years.

Sea otters eat them by chewing off a limb and then throwing them back, which does no lasting damage to the sea star. Gulls on the other hand ingest small sea stars whole which leads to the common and amusing sight of a gull with a broad lump in its throat as it takes a few minutes to swallow its spiny meal.

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