Starfish and Sea Urchins

Echinoderms are a group of animals that only live in the sea. Starfish, Brittlestars, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers and Feather Stars all belong to this group, and two major characteristics of them all is that they have hard, spiny skin and tube feet.

 

Lawson Wood #2 Ophiothrix fragilis Fragi

Brittlestars © Lawson Wood Ocean Eye Films

Starfish and Brittle Stars

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Starfish come in a whole host of shapes, sizes and colours. They may look pretty, and despite their slow movement across rock and sand, they are fierce predators! They have special chemicals in their stomach which can dissolve limpet shells, and some species even eat each other!

Brittlestars have long, slender arms and love to hide under boulders on the rocky shore. They can also be found in huge numbers offshore, blanketing rocky areas. They feed by extending one of their arms into the water column, which collect tiny food particles and plankton.

Common Starfish
Common Starfish
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Bloody Henry Starfish
Bloody Henry Starfish
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Common Sun Star
Common Sun Star
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Common Brittle Star
Common Brittle Star
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Sea Urchins

Sea urchins might not look like they are related to starfish – but they are more similar than you might think. They have a more obvious spiny skin, as also have tube feed which they use to move. They are grazers and love a juicy piece of kelp to feed on – especially the stipes (what the stem of seaweed is known as).

Edible Sea Urchin
Edible Sea Urchin

© Lawson Wood Ocean Eye Films

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Heart Urchin
Heart Urchin

© Katherine Dunsford

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Feather Stars

Feather Stars are delicate animals that have 10 arms that look like – you guessed it – feathers! They too have tubed feet but can also attach themselves to rocks and other hard surfaces. They can easily be mistaken for seaweed if you find them on the lower rocky shore.

Feather Star
Feather Star

© Lawson Wood Ocean Eye Films

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Images by Lawson Wood Ocean Eye Films & Katherine Dunsford