… It’s Full of Stars

I’ve previously posted about the micro brittle stars that inhabit my aquarium – from their tendency to go walkabouts to their habit of living in every available crevice. Two nights ago, however, one of them did something new – and entirely unexpected.

I typically feed the seahorses on top of one of the filter intake motor casings. The motor housing has a large flat place on top that makes a perfect “table” for the food and the upright flow tubes offer a perfect hitching post for the horses to grab while they eat.

A number of brittle stars live in the housing, generally near the intake valves, and stick their arms out when they sense food in the water. On the night in question, however, one of the larger brittles decided to do more than just wave at the passing snacks.

He jumped out of his crevice and climbed along the side of the intake until he thought he could reach the top of the filter box.

Then he wedged his body into a crack and reached for the food with his arms.

Once he secured a piece of the seahorses’ food, he wedged himself into the crevice even further and ate – and then dropped off of the filter, fell to the bottom of the tank and tried to hide himself behind a green sun coral.

As you can see, the lack of eyes makes a starfish less than perfect at hiding.

I think the star in question decided to abandon the filter, in part, because he had grown too large for the crevice he’d been living in and hoped to find a more effective hiding spot in the reef. He’s large enough that he could be planning to reproduce soon, too, and he’d also need more room to house his clones. (Brittle stars can “reproduce” by shedding a portion of their bodies – with one or two arms – and then regrowing the missing sections, while the clone regrows the parts it’s missing too. And yes, it’s as creepy to watch as it is to read about.)

Would it creep you out to see a starfish burst from its home and race across the tank? Did you see anything this week that you weren’t expecting? Jump into the comments and share!